I started stuttering when I was in pre-primary school and had to contend with this issue ever since.
At School and University my stutter didn't affect me too badly. I could get by most of the time by hiding my stutter and substituting words. Most teachers and lecturers were also aware of my stutter and this made my life easier. Moving into the adult world was a drastic change. Suddenly I'd lost my support system. I felt like I was thrown to the wolves and had to fend for myself.
I quickly realised that people who stood up for themselves and made themselves heard were the ones who progressed in this cruel and challenging world. The quiet nice guy is shoved into the corner of some office with no windows and spends the best years of his life stuck behind a computer sorting out other people’s admin. Don't get me wrong, many people enjoy doing these jobs, but I wanted more human interaction and I knew that the reason I would be stuck in that dark office will be because of my stutter.
Before I joined the McGuire Programme, I had never done a public speech, never done a presentation and only spoke in meetings when I absolutely had to. I was a qualified Chartered Accountant, but because of my lack of participation in the above, my peers were progressing much faster than I was. I had to do something!
I had gone through various speech therapy treatments before, but a combination of factors had prevented me from gaining the control I so desperately needed. In 2003 I heard about the McGuire Programme from a friend. What intrigued me was the fact that everyone involved were all recovering stutterers going through the same issues and the fact that there was strong follow up support after your first course.
I knew that a lifetime of stuttering will not be cured during a single course and I will need the support for as long as possible.
At that stage, the courses were only presented in the UK, but I made the commitment to move to London and join the Programme while also gaining valuable offshore experience in my profession.
I did my first McGuire course in Coventry, England during August 2003 and it changed my life. Progress was slow at the beginning, but over the course of a year I gradually started gaining control over my speech and I could feel that I was becoming a more confident person. On the McGuire Programme, we see speaking as a sport. Just like swimming or rugby. The more you practice, the better you get. We, as stutterers, are just very bad at this sport, but by practicing more than other fluent speakers, we can become just as good, if not better, speakers and communicators.
By August 2004, I had made numerous speeches in front of hundreds of people (I also joined a public speaking club to improve my speech further), I had convened meetings at work where I gave my opinion freely and I had even instructed my own McGuire Course in Wigan, England to help other people recover from the same problem. I was so impressed with the results that I started playing with the idea of bringing the Programme to South Africa. I knew many stutterers in South Africa who were in the same state of desperation that I was in, but didn’t have the funds or opportunity to travel to the UK in order to attend a course.
In December 2004, I decided to move back to the country I loved so much and started organizing the first South African course
The McGuire Programme (South Africa) was launched in April 2005 and the first course took place in Cape Town. At the time of writing this, we’ve had 10 courses across South Africa and helped close to 80 people.
Now, I am definitely not a fluent speaker and I am not cured of my stutter, but I can say the following: I don’t hold back anymore and I am not afraid of speaking to anyone. I am in control of my speech most of the time and I can say what I want to say, when I want to say it. I stay involved with the Programme mainly to help other people, but also to ensure that I keep improving my own speech. I’ll probably have to fight my stutter for the rest of my life, but most people who meet me now don’t even notice it.
It has been an exciting journey!