English was the worst feeling as I used to skip lessons when I knew I had to read out in class. Having a surname Wilton meant that I was a ‘W’ so I had to wait and wait to read and the fear used to really build up! I had a covert stammer, which meant I became a pro at avoiding words, sounds and situations. I could never say B, D and G words so I used other words to replace them.
I have had my stammer for as long as I can remember. My Mum says I used to stammer in my car seat... I first heard of the programme when an Aunty of mine taped a documentary which was on TV in 1997.
My stammer was terrible, minutes used to go by sometimes, without me being able to say a word. I had tried various speech therapies whilst at school, nothing had ever worked.
I left home for a college in Birmingham in September 1998, and without school friends and family there to support me, I really struggled through the first 6 months of my Higher Education career.
I developed a stammer very early in life, probably at the age of 3 or 4. My time in school. college, university, my working and social life was dominated by the words 'I can't.
If I needed to speak in public or in front of my peers I would always have difficulties. I would block, struggle, try to use tricks and avoid.
If I needed to speak in public or in front of my peers I would always have difficulties
The list was endless. Then one day my mum read a story in the newspaper about a woman who had been on this speech course called The McGuire Programme, talking about how it had helped her. I was 21 and desperate for anything that may help and signed up to this program not really knowing what i was getting into!
As a small child into art I knew from a young age I wanted to be a Graphic Designer, but as a child with a severe stutter, I often worried about my ability to do so. Client presentations and explaining ideas are an important and daily task to the role – involving good communication skills.
For a kid who often struggled to say his own name, let alone articulate a 'concept', this seemed like a dream beyond my reach.
This seemed like a dream beyond my reach.
I tried to make my words sound as much like what I was hearing as possible, to 'fit in', and I suspect this was a trigger which brought speech to my attention as being a potential hazard. My mother informed me later that I had been going through a stammering phase anyway, but I had no awareness of it until then. School was tricky from then on.
I first became aware of stammering at about eight years old. From then on it shaped my entire life; personal, social, professional, the lot. I chose to work from home as an accountant, didn’t answer the telephone, didn’t attend meetings. I had – I still have – no children. It’s too late now.
- You could say that I can now say what I WANT to say instead of what I think I CAN say.
- You could say that I now answer the phone rather than pretending that I can't hear it.
- You could say that I don't now get sweaty palms whenever someone walks near me in case they ask me a question
- You could say that I am now close friends with many other recovering stutterers whereas before I never even knew another severe stutterer
You could say all of the above and they would all be true.
Steve Sheasby Speaks to the BSA
Here, Steve Sheasby charts his own journey through the McGuire Programme.
I joined the McGuire Programme in May 2007. A year later I became a Certified Primary Coach on it, and a year after that I qualified as a Certified Course Instructor Intern. In this article, I will tell you something of my experiences in the McGuire Programme.
It's Behind You!!
Gareth will play the part of Prince Charming for six weeks at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Click here for article.