Severe stutterer now an award-winning Toastmaster

DEAN KOZANIC / Fairfax NZ STRAIGHT TALKER: Rory Horne says the McGuire Programme stopped his stutter getting in the way of becoming a Toastmaster, and interviewing people all around the world as part of his engineering job.


Rory Horne selected his career to avoid revealing his stutter when he said his job title.

He spent his childhood covertly disguising his impediment. He avoided certain words or replaced them with others. He dodged phone calls and people in positions of authority.

"I was pretty good at hiding it," he said.

Horne, 26, who was born in South Africa and raised in Tauranga, struggled with "s" sounds, or hard sounds like a "d" or "b". He got "blocks" and repeated words.

It often became pronounced when performing speeches.

"I found it was quite situational rather than anything else."

It could have been linked to his move to New Zealand, but it was hard to prove.

Horne said if it was not for taking part in the McGuire Programme to control his impediment, he would not be travelling the world interviewing people as a usability engineer for Trimble.

He studied engineering at the University of Canterbury and specialised in mechanical engineering because of his stutter.

"There was a definite conscious realisation that, 'do I want to go through the rest of my life introducing myself as a c-c-civil engineer?

"You don't really realise the amount of influence it has over what you do."

While continuing with a masters, Horne attended his first five McGuire courses in Australia.

He now did "stuff that before would have been a terrifying experience", including being an award-winning Toastmaster and coaching other stutterers.

"The underlying mentality is treating it like a sport."

It required practice.

"You are amazing after a couple of days, but you can't just leave it at that."

New Zealand McGuire Programme regional director Rob Woolley first met Horne at a Toastmasters night at Canterbury University.

"He was quite a severe stutterer, yet was showing immense courage to challenge himself in a public-speaking environment."

He was now one of 200 people to complete the stuttering course in New Zealand.

About 1 per cent of the population stuttered, he said.

The programme - developed by American Dave McGuire who had studied psychology and behavioural science to find a way of controlling his own stutter - first started in New Zealand about 2000, and in Europe about 1994.

It had a 72 per cent success rate.

The programme is now in England, Ireland, South Africa, India, Australia, United States, Scandinavia, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and India.

"The programme is not a cure but a way to stay in control of your voice and how you feel in feared speaking situations."