Erdington man overcomes stammer to land dream job
Another Uplifting Story About Stuttering and The McGuire Programme.
From an early school age, speaking with a stammer was all Harry Britton knew. Bullied at school and avoiding words he could not properly pronounce were merely the start of his issues as he ended up stuttering every one word out of three spoken.
The 24-year-old even quit university and completely changed his career path from wanting to be a teacher after struggling to read out the register on work placement.
However, all this changed last year when he undertook a four-day intensive speech therapy programme. Following the residential course, he was able to speak in a controlled manner – the stammer was gone and he had faced his fear of public speaking.
The transformation, Harry insists, can only be described as life-changing.
He said: “That’s the phrase I have been using because there is no other way to describe it. The transformation is unbelievable, I am a lot more confident and saying what I want to say.
“Now, I am not afraid of asking questions or being myself. I am doing things that I never thought I would have been able to do, ever. The stammer was daily, I used to stutter one word in every three in every conversation.
“I took speech therapy but that only worked for a short amount of time and then I would relapse back to my old ways. I would just be very quiet and not talk until I had to, I wasn’t the real me at all – whereas now I feel myself, I feel new.”
There are two types of stammers: overt and covert. An overt stammer is when there is lots of tension in the jaws and the person struggles to talk a lot. A covert stammer, which Harry had, is when the fear is in the mind about what you are going to say and you mumble or substitute words for ones you want to say but can’t because you can’t pronounce them.
Harry explains that his stuttering, which developed when he was in Year Three at Sedbergh Primary School in 1997, affected all areas of his life.
He continued: “I had for as long I could remember and it would affect everything. In a normal conversation, someone would ask me how I am, I would go to say ‘I am good thank you’ but because I would struggle with it, I would have to say something different like ‘I am fine thank you’, I would always be searching for a substitute.
“It was something that very much played on my mind, more so in secondary school than primary because I was so young. Other pupils would make comments which led to bullying. They would always say ‘Why do you stutter?’ or behind my back I would hear them talk about it. I just didn’t have any control over my words.
“It had a real affect on my life. For example, when I went out to a restaurant with my family and we were looking at the menu to choose what to eat, I would not choose what I wanted because I couldn’t pronounce it. I would choose the food I could say, even if it wasn’t what I wanted and I didn’t like it.”
It was always Harry’s dream to be a school teacher. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of a teacher he had at primary school, a Mr Cayley, so embarked on a degree to become a primary teacher.
He signed on to a four-year course at the University of Cumbria for a QTS in Primary Education in 2008. However, it did not turn out as expected and his dream collapsed.
He said: “I dropped out in my first year even though it was a four-year course. As part of the degree, I had to go on work placements and go to schools and take classes. I just couldn’t do it. My biggest fear was introducing myself because that is when you make your impression and first impressions are key.
“I had to read out the register and I couldn’t pronounce the children’s names. I thought to myself how can I be a teacher when I can’t even say my name or my kids names? So, I quit my course and I changed what I wanted to do.
“I just gave up, I couldn’t take it. I left Cumbria in 2009 and in 2010 I did Sports Tech at the University of Central Lancashire. I didn’t want to do something that required speaking as much so I did sport instead, I thought I couldn’t be fixed.”
Harry graduated with Second Class Division One honours in Sports Tech in 2013. The whole time he had been aware of an intensive speech therapy programme called McGuire Speech. He had always been sceptical about its effectiveness but started to save up during his time in Lancashire on the off-chance they could help him out.
He was left amazed by the end results of the five-day course.
He said: “I had been researching the programme because even though I was changing career paths, you still have that hope that someone » somewhere can help you. I knew you had to pay membership to join so I saved up and within a week of graduating, I signed up.
“It was in Cardiff so I went over there and on the first evening they filmed me stuttering. They interviewed me, asking questions such as my name, address and hobbies, all while a camera was fixed on me.
“The next morning they began on work to improve my speech. They took me right back to the basics and concentrated on my breathing. They worked out that my diaphragm was scarred by so much distress which was caused by my stammering. They took me through various techniques and after five days I had gone from stuttering one in every three words to pronouncing 90 per cent of all my words.
“The first few days we weren’t allowed to speak at all and then the last three we started to build it up and started to speak using three words per breath. The last two days we did public speaking.
“I went into Cardiff city centre and had to speak to 100 people, asking them for directions, which was tricky at first but I got there. Then, I ended by standing on a soapbox with a crowd of hundreds and I told them my story and the journey I had been on. I admitted to strangers I had a stammer and I’d gone from struggling to say words to saying as much as I can.”
With the success of this speech programme, Harry’s dream is now back on track and this month, he is all set to embark on a training programme to be a school teacher. After beating off hundreds of other applicants and succeeding in interviews, he is now in the position where he wants to teach others and help others with stammers.
He said: “One year on I am still working hard on trying to improve my speech and work towards eloquence. In fact I am now in a position where I can help others with their stammer and I am even applying to be a McGuire speech coach. Furthermore, I can now pursue my career dream, which is to be a school teacher. Starting from September I will be training to be a school teacher.
“This is through a national teaching programme I signed up for called the School Direct Teaching Programme. I had to do all-day interviews for this and I will be facing my fear of introducing myself and reading the register but I feel much more confident now.
“I never thought I would be able to do this. This time next year I am hoping to be a primary school PE teacher, combining my dream of teaching with my sports degree.
“This shows anyone can face their fears and overcome it. I would now like to raise awareness of stammering and help others in my situation as one in ten people stammer, but most don’t do anything about it as it can be hard to even talk about it, let alone ask for help.”