I have had a stammer since I was 4 years old and it always had a huge impact on me. As most people that are challenged by stammering will tell you, the physical blocking and facial struggle is only a fraction of the speech impediment.
My stammer caused me to block on words and repeat sounds but it also caused me to avoid words and situations. I would never speak in the company of new people. I would go to extreme lengths to hide my stammer and usually fail. A small thing like asking for something in a shop was always a dreaded ordeal for me. I would stutter and struggle on the words and leave the shop feeling ashamed, embarrassed but above all else incompetent. It would be safe to say that almost every speaking experience I had was clouded with negative emotions leading me to feel completely helpless. I felt as though I would never be able to say what I wanted to say. Secondary school was a major challenge for me. My stammer caused me to worry excessively. From the moment I realised what a French Oral exam was I began to imagine all the way it could go wrong for me. I presumed I would fail, not because of my level of French but rather because I wouldn’t even be able to tell the examiner my name. I was certain that the examiner would think that my facial struggle was a trait of utter madness! English soon became the most dreaded class of the day for me, not because I didn’t like the subject but rather because of the likelihood of being asked to real aloud in class. There was absolutely no way to avoid the words that I knew I would struggle on. There they lay on the page like traps just waiting to suck me in to a dark hole of humiliation. I would sit anxiously behind my book, hoping my turn to read would never come. My parents knew how much my stammer affected me and tried relentlessly to help me. Throughout my childhood I attended all sorts of speech therapy. Although I met many dedicated speech therapists with the best of intentions none of their remedies seemed to work for me. Any hint of progress was soon followed by an abrupt tumble back to square one. Both my Mom and I began to feel as though my stammer and all the negativity associated with it were to be a life sentence. This was until 2008 when my parents discovered the McGuire Programme. My mom booked me into a three day intensive course in the Salthill Hotel, Galway. I reluctantly went along, not giving it any thought. I had absolutely no expectations regarding the programme; I just wanted to get it over with and return to my old speaking habits of avoidance. The course began on a Wednesday night. It was such a comfort to hear other people, that were also challenged by stammering, talk about these negative feelings and emotions that I thought only existed in my own head. It was as though these people were inside my mind and knew exactly how I felt. It was at that moment that I realised I was not the only person in the world plagued by this affliction; as it was to me at that time. I remember talking to my Mom after the initial session and saying ‘Wow Mom, this looks good!’ For me, this was probably the first time I had voluntarily brought stammering up with anyone. Over the next few days I learned and practised a new speaking technique that gave me control over my own speech, something that until then I had only ever dreamed of. Although the days to come were to be challenging ones, the hard work seemed insignificant compared to the feelings of success that each new day brought. I left that hotel the following Saturday with an overwhelming feeling of empowerment. For the first time in my life I felt like I had control over the words that came out of my mouth and how they came out of my mouth. These days I am enjoying more than ever the freedom and independence the McGuire Programme has given me. I can finally be the person I always knew was inside. I make my own phone calls, I enjoy speaking in front of groups, I can offer my opinion in discussions, I no longer fear having to speak to the shopkeeper, I now love meeting new people and making new friends and I dreaded my recent French Oral for the same reasons as the rest of my classmates! More than anything I feel my life is no longer limited by stammering. Of course stammering is still a part of my life but now I know it is a part of me that I am in complete control of. It no longer has the power to hold me back from doing anything.