Primary school teacher Adam Black tells how McGuire Programme helped him overcome stammer and land his dream job
Aug 29, 2014 11:43 By Brian McIver - Daily Record THE 24-year-old teacher, whose condition was so bad that he once had to make up a new name because he couldn't say his own, says the stammer therapy programme has revolutionised his life.
FOR someone whose stutter used to be so bad that he struggled to say his own name, the first thing that strikes you about Adam Black is what a well spoken young man he is.
Just a few years ago, the 24-year-old teacher’s condition was so bad that he once had to make up a new name because he couldn’t get his own out – never mind speak to girls or even order his own food at McDonald’s.
But after years of hard work and dedication, Glasgow-born Adam has managed to overcome his speech impediment.
He has landed his dream job as a primary school teacher and become a coach who has helped thousands of fellow stutterers beat the condition.
Adam is a trainer with the McGuire Programme, an international network of peer-supported stammer therapy, which he said has revolutionised lives around the world, including his own.
The system – which has been used by famous names such as Wet Wet Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin, Scotland rugby international Kelly Brown and Pop Idol contestant Gareth Gates – is a mixture of confidence building, managing tricky situations and opera-style breathing exercises.
Seven years after joining the scheme, Adam is a key member of staff at Glasgow’s Shawlands Primary and was able to propose to his fiancee earlier this year without blocking – the term used for being unable to come up with the right word.
“It’s amazing how much my life has changed and now I make sure to never avoid the kind of situations that used to make me stutter severely, such as speaking to people for the first time,” he said.
“It’s been a huge change in my life and the best part is that I can now do the job I’ve always wanted to.
“I love teaching and I could never have imagined doing that before, it would have terrified me. It’s great and I even go back to university now to give talks.
“It’s very different from my first memory of having a stutter, which is when I was four and a teacher asked me a question.
“I knew the answer but I couldn’t get the word out and was really blocking – I had never felt it like that before.
“The worst time for me though was when I was in high school and I was asked to help out the younger kids in PE because I was really into sport.
“I was introducing myself to them and was blocking forever and couldn’t get my name out, so instead of saying Adam, I said my name was John.
“Getting the mick taken out of me by these young kids was definitely one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.”
Adam’s teenage years were the toughest. Although he had the support of a lot of friends, he still spent much of his time closed off from the rest of the world.
He said: “Parties were very worrying because I could never talk to people.
“And if I was trying to talk to a girl, when the first impression of you is really struggling to get your name out in front of her, that’s very hard.
“I was very lucky, people in my whole year were very accepting and my friends were a great help.
“When I left school I wanted to be a teacher but I knew I couldn’t do that because of my stutter, so I studied sports because I thought there wouldn’t be much speaking and a lot of visual aids for the job.
“But when I started college, it was a nightmare because I was meeting new people all the time and it was horrible and really embarrassing.
“That was when I realised that I had to do something.”
Having tried every traditional treatment – from speech therapy to elocution lessons – he discovered the McGuire Programme.
One per cent of the world’s population suffer from stutters, which are believed to be neurological in origin.
The McGuire Programme was founded 20 years ago by American David McGuire who, while seeking a cure to his own stammer, found out about a technique used by opera singers.
He adopted their technique of costal breathing, using the diaphragm for deep, prolonged breaths, and found it helped with his own speech. He then developed it using his own background to create an intensive programme of up to 52 hours in one weekend.
The £900 therapy is a lifetime membership and Adam and others continue to attend meetings and groups for the rest of their lives if there is a recurrence of their stammering.
Adam Black now does public speaking and helps others to overcome their stutters.
Adam found his worked so well that he now helps others, something he finds very rewarding.
“One of the key parts is with the phrase ‘Stuttering is the fear of stuttering’ – and you don’t speak to people because you are afraid. The course then tells you to speak about stuttering and not to avoid things, which is just a massive barrier to break down.
“And, added to the physical aspect of your breathing, it makes it a powerful option. It’s a long process but you get an instant result.
“There are no speech therapists. It’s a system for people who stutter by people who stutter and everyone knows what it’s like.”
Adam added: “I was so delighted with how the course went and, after three years, I applied for teaching. I now teach primary two and it’s fantastic.
“I explained to the pupils that Mr Black sometimes speaks a little bit differently, the same way someone with a limp walks a little differently, and they are all great.
“On my first day, I was very nervous but it felt good to be nervous about the actual job and being busy with the content of the lesson and not my speaking.
“I didn’t need to worry about that.”