May 2020, was my McGuire Programme 20th Anniversary. My first course was in May 2000 and as well as giving me a roadmap out of the trap of stammering, the course also gave me lifetime membership. I did not know then I would need to avail of this membership twenty years later.
I worked hard on my speech in my early years on the McGuire Programme. The peer support I got from others in the same boat as I was second to none. As well as up to four courses a year in Ireland, there were weekly support group meetings, refresher days, and direct phone contact with the programme’s founder, unlimited phone support, and training sessions for voluntary positions on the programme. I availed of every opportunity to progress towards my goal of articulate, even eloquent, speech.
I developed more confidence and the more I worked on my speech the stronger my speech became. The Regional Director for Ireland, Joe O’Donnell gently nudged me to go on a staff training course to become a coach to help others on their journey of freedom from stammering. I qualified as a course instructor and eventually became a staff trainer.
Because of other commitments, I drifted away from the McGuire Programme. In the last few years due to a number of factors, my speech went on a downward spiral. I developed a few health issues that impacted my speech. The medication I was prescribed affected my vocal cords and I found it difficult to have a strong voice. I got more breathless and would often run out of the air when trying to speak.
My main hobby and sport was cycling. I rode with a regular group of friends a few times a week but because of my medical condition, I had to stop cycling with groups. This had a further impact on my confidence and speech.
Earlier this year I decided to take control of my life. I changed my diet to a whole food plant-based diet. I took control of my health and improvements started to happen. I also bought a meditation app and use this daily. All I needed now was to regain my confident speech. I ordered the latest 2019 edition of Beyond Stuttering by Dave McGuire from Amazon and I read a page from the book every morning.
Then the Lockdown happened and I discovered the power of Zoom.
Irish RD Joe O’Donnell told me about groups.io and I started getting information about what was going on in the McGuire world. I discovered Emmet O’Connell was hosting morning and afternoon coffee breaks from his home in Germany. I didn’t care where the coffee breaks were, I was never one to turn down an invitation to a coffee break, so I joined Emmet and other grads for a coffee and chat from the comfort of my home.
At the start my speech was wobbly and I didn’t have much confidence but I persevered. Morning and afternoon I clicked on the link and joined in whatever topic we happened to be chatting about.
My confidence grew and my speech continued to get better.
I didn’t stop there. I joined McGuire Programme’s daily lunchtime sessions. I listened and learned from everyone. I joined a few of Michael O’Shea sessions. I joined the Newbridge and Dublin support groups on Zoom. I even popped up in the Australian support group.
My Zooming was paying off. I slowly rebuilt my confidence and my speech. Thanks to all the people who hosted the online sessions. I learned from new grads and old grads and everyone in-between. They may not know it, but everyone on the McGuire Zoom sessions supported me on my journey back to confident speech. For that, I am forever grateful.
Brendan O Leary