Otley man's 'life-changing' progress overcoming stammer

Looking forward with confidence - Otley resident James Tennant, who has made "life-changing" progress in overcoming his stammer.

Looking forward with confidence - Otley resident James Tennant, who has made "life-changing" progress in overcoming his stammer.

Looking forward with confidence - Otley resident James Tennant, who has made "life-changing" progress in overcoming his stammer.

THREE years ago James Tennant was filmed trying to answer a series of basic questions.

The results, showing the 24-year-old Otley resident struggling badly for long periods to get a word out due to his severe stammer, make uncomfortable viewing.

Yet since then James, who moved to West Yorkshire from Cumbria a few years ago, has gone on to deliver a best man's speech, join a speakers club and is on the verge of becoming a certified speech coach.

He credits his remarkable progress to the help he has received from the McGuire Programme – the same course that helped Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates.

James, who works for Otley-based marketing group Ponderosa, said: "It's been a fantastic three years – just being able to speak is a fantastic thing.

"I've had a stammer since the age of four and it was quite severe, so through school and university it was very hard, though I've always had fantastic support from family, friends and colleagues.

"There were times when people would walk away from me or put the phone down just because it was taking me so long to get the words out.

"I got to a stage when I turned 21 where I thought 'I can't go on not being able to speak' because it's the most frustrating thing in the world.

"I was in a bad place and thought I'd give this course a go. My parents had mentioned it before but I'd always said I didn't need it – I was in denial."

James headed off to Newcastle in 2012 for his first therapy session.

It was tougher than he'd imagined, involving nothing less than completely re-learning how to speak.

The course also focused on mastering a breathing technique that uses the diaphragm rather than the chest.

He said: "Each session is a hard, intensive four days and they strip your speech back so you learn a brand new way to talk.

"I also wear a belt around my chest now, from time to time, to help with my costal breathing, which is the main part of it.

"I'm still working on my speech all the time and do breathing warm-ups and exercises before I come to work.

"It's all worth it. This has been a life-changing transformation – from where I was to where I am now.

"Since doing the programme, I've given a best man's speech in front of 200 people, joined a speakers club, given a talk at my old school, delivered work presentations and had job interviews.

"There are still times when I get stuck, but I'll get there."

James will go on staff training with the McGuire Programme in November to become a certified primary coach so he can help others with a stammer.

Jim Jack / Friday 3 July 2015 / News