IT’S GOOD TO TALK: Margaret O’Brien who has successfully overcome her stammer. Picture: Dan Linehan

Finding her voice: How a mother of three finally overcame her lifelong stutter – aged 53

Internally she was silenced from a very young age, as those lengthy verbal pauses to pronounce words that contained the S or F sounds in particular, left her embarrassed by the responses of the other kids, “smirking and smiling” at her attempts to express herself.

It didn’t get any better as she got older: “As a teenager, I used to avoid the words that I stammered on and try and change the answer,” she tells Feelgood.

Eventually I became a covert stutterer; I tried to cover up that I had the stammer and thought nobody would see it, if I kept trying to veer conversation away. But there were an awful lot of drawbacks, as a result. I wouldn’t be able to start off a conversation with a new person for example; I was on my guard the whole time.

This continued into adulthood, through her marriage at age 22, the rearing of her three girls now aged 32, 30 and 25, and through separation and divorce. “It kept me from being myself, having my own opinions. I could never stand up for myself because I was constantly in fear of getting stuck by stammering, making a fool of myself. It was easier to keep my mouth shut, rather than speak up.”

But all that changed in October 2016, after Margaret attended a three-day intensive course called The McGuire Programme, run for people who stammer, by those who stammer themselves.

She first heard of the course several years back when English singer-songwriter, Gareth Gates, spoke about how he had conquered his own speech impediment through the programme, when interviewed by presenter Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ’s Late Late Show.

But it wasn’t until she hit her early 50s that Margaret plucked up the courage to do it. “At that stage, I was tired of not being me and being involved in other things. I wanted to be more confident — and I knew if I could speak properly I would have a lot more confidence,” she says.

 

IT’S GOOD TO TALK: Margaret O’Brien who has successfully overcome her stammer. Picture: Dan Linehan

 

But all that changed in October 2016, after Margaret attended a three-day intensive course called The McGuire Programme, run for people who stammer, by those who stammer themselves.

She first heard of the course several years back when English singer-songwriter, Gareth Gates, spoke about how he had conquered his own speech impediment through the programme, when interviewed by presenter Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ’s Late Late Show.

But it wasn’t until she hit her early 50s that Margaret plucked up the courage to do it. “At that stage, I was tired of not being me and being involved in other things. I wanted to be more confident — and I knew if I could speak properly I would have a lot more confidence,” she says.

“I think it was that stage of life… being the age I was. I just wanted to do something for me. A new start.”

Once on the course, it lived up to being an intensive one, with participants starting at 6am and not finishing until 10pm over each of the three days. She learned many tools to manage her stammer, including how she should take a deep breath to fill her lungs if she thought she was going to stumble over a word.

Afterwards, there was follow-up support by phone or Skype with others who had successfully gone through the programme — communication which still continues weekly, so they can practice their speech and talk about problems that might arise.

The fact that Margaret can even use the phone this way, is a huge leap forward.

Before I did the programme there wasn’t a hope I’d speak to anyone on the phone because I always stammered. I can answer the phone now and talk away, having a normal conversation.

She is also determined to continue her progress by putting herself in situations that challenge her to communicate, saying it is “all about practice, practice, practice.” The reward includes exploring a world from which she felt so excluded in the past.

“The past year and a half have given me a freedom I could only dream of,” she reveals. “I have challenged myself and believed in myself enough, to push myself into speaking situations that I never thought I would be able to do. I’m getting involved in a lot more things. I am the union rep now at work where I have to hold many conversations and do a lot of speaking.

“I entered the local Strictly Come Dancing competition for charity and am involved in The Kube competition, another fundraiser. I can ring for takeouts and order whatever I want on the menu. I can go up to someone now and show an interest in them and ask them questions, whereas before I would have been standing back.”

The everyday tasks that the majority of us carry out with ease, from practically toddler stage, now open up half a century later for this brave woman.

She has truly found her voice. “Yes, I have. And it’s brilliant. When I went on the course I was thinking ‘am I too old to be starting doing this?’”

But I realised you’re never too old to make changes in your life and to better yourself.

To find out more about the McGuire Programme check out http://www.stammering.ie/

Liam Pogson of Mirfield, who has managed to take control of his stammer and is to appear on a TV programme about the affliction.

How Talking To 50 Strangers A Day Helped Conquer My Stammer

It’s good to talk – but how would you feel about speaking to 50 strangers a day?

For many of us the prospect of approaching dozens of people would fill us with dread.

So imagine how it feels if you go up to someone and literally can’t get your words out.

That’s what life was like for Liam Pogson – who has suffered with a stammer since he was a child.

But Liam’s stammer has now been transformed thanks to an intensive programme that helps sufferers conquer their speech.

A huge part of that is stopping people in the street and striking up a conversation.

For years now, as part of his daily exercises to remain in control of his stammer, Liam, 26, forces himself to talk to 50 strangers.

He will routinely ask people for directions that he doesn’t need or just try and make small talk with people he’s never met.

While some people think he’s trying to sell them something, others will stop and have a word.

Liam, a gym enthusiast from Mirfield who works at the Stadium Fitness Centre in Huddersfield, has spoken out in a bid to get other people suffering with stammers to take action.

He says the McGuire programme he used has been life changing and is urging anyone with a stammer to watch a new ITV documentary next week called School for Stammerers.

“I want people to watch it and then do the McGuire programme,” he said.

“They will learn new ways to speak and new ways to think about their stammering.

“It doesn’t have to ruin your life anymore.

“It’s part of you but it doesn’t have to define you as a person.

“If they do the course they will be in control of their speech for the first time in their life.”

Liam has previously revealed in the Examiner how his stammer had stopped him from enjoying life, particularly during his teenage years.

He developed a way of hiding it and avoided talking or socialising.

But after completing the McGuire programme he was transformed.

“I’m able to be the person I’ve always wanted to be,” he said. “I can show my true personality.

“Before I wasn’t even able to say my name. I went for a job at the stadium and I couldn’t speak.

“Thankfully I still got it even though I couldn’t say a single word.

“The McGuire programme has let me take control of my stammer – it’s a lifestyle and you have to work on it every single day.

“I speak to 50 strangers either on the phone or in the street and I will do every day for the rest of my life.”

School for Stammerers follows the emotional journey of six people trying to overcome their problem.

A lorry driver, a teacher, a pharmacist, a professional photographer, and two school boys all undergo a course that claims it can transform a stammerer’s speech in just four days.

The show airs on ITV 1 on Tuesday, January 9 at 9pm

ORIGINAL INTERVIEW FEATURED IN examiner.co.uk. LINK: http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/how-talking-50-strangers-day-14106763

Stammerer Ashley Guerin. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Speaking Out – A Television Documentary Features A Norwich Man Helping People Control Their Stammers

As a child Ashley Guerin would do his best not to speak. His stock answer at school was: “I ain’t sure,” and he is sure some teachers assumed he was either ignorant or insolent.

He was neither. Instead he had a severe stammer.

On Tuesday he is part of a documentary following a group of people through an intensive course to help them gain some control over debilitating stammers.

It was a course Ashley first took, aged 17, and which has been part of his life ever since. It also changed his life, enabling the almost silent teenager to become a businessman running his own building company and comfortable talking to strangers, making phone calls and delivering speeches in front of hundreds of people.

“My speech was really bad. I used to struggle with every single word and just tried to avoid speaking altogether. I’d been through all the usual speech therapy and there wasn’t anything that really helped.”

Like most stammerers, Ashley’s speech problems began when he was around three and affected just about every aspect of his life.

“I decided to get a job in IT, even though I hated IT, because I thought I wouldn’t have to talk!”

Now 37, and running his own building construction company from his home near Norwich, he is due to get married in September.

“I thought my stammer meant I would never find a partner,” he admitted. In fact, his stammer helped him find a partner as he met his fiancé, Clairemarie, through the McGuire Programme – a therapy developed by a stammerer (or stutterer – the two words both mean the same) which trains people in a breathing technique to help them speak. Ashley and Clairemaire are both now teachers with the programme.

The initial course is an intensive four-day programme and, once the breathing technique is mastered, includes exercises such as beginning conversations with strangers, learning how to stammer on purpose to overcome anxiety about being unable to speak, and delivering a speech.

Most people then return regularly to keep on top of their stammer. “It isn’t a cure, it’s a technique to control your speech,” said Ashley. “If I stopped attending courses I would struggle. It’s like sport. You have to keep training.”

He admits being disappointed after his first course that there was not a huge, immediate and permanent change. Now he believes the technique has the potential to work for most people – but involves a huge amount of effort. “You have to face all your fears. And every time you stammer, you should try to stop and start speaking again.

“Once you have learnt the technique you have to go out on to the street with a coach and talk to 100 people. You might ask directions, ask the time, tell them you are on a speech course, it’s not what you say that’s important, it’s the fact that you are having to talk to people. The first time I only managed about 14 or 15 people, I was petrified. But once you have signed up it’s a lifetime membership and you can come back again and again.”

Remembering his own fear, as a teenager, Ashley, now an instructor and coach, is well aware of how 13-year-old Riley is feeling during the ITV documentary to be shown on Tuesday.

“When he started he was very, very quiet. I knew what he was going through and he gained so much confidence!” said Ashley.

And although Ashley still has to work hard to keep his stammer under control, he is fluent and fascinating chatting on the phone.

“I don’t try and avoid stuff any more,” he said.

Instead he has travelled to Dubai, the USA, Canada and Mexico to help coach fellow stammerers, as well as dealing with all the interactions of day-to-day life and running Guerin Construction. “A few times you get the odd impatient person, or someone who laughs, but from childhood I’ve had really good friends around me. Years ago I would rather pretend to be stupid than try to speak but now I tell people about how I work on my speech.”

Watch Ashley Guerin taking part in School for Stammering on ITV1 at 9pm on Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The one-off documentary follows the emotionally-charged journey of six people as they attempt to control their stammers and change their lives. A lorry driver, a teacher, a pharmacist, a photographer and two schoolboys take part in the intensive residential four-day course, filmed for the programme. Some go from being unable to speak to giving a speech in front of hundreds of strangers in Trafalgar Square. Ashley Guerin, from Norwich, helps coach 13-year-old Riley, who has stammered all his life. Before starting the course Riley tells viewers he feels like a jigsaw with missing pieces and if the pieces aren’t found, he’s unrepairable, which makes him really sad.

PUBLISHED: 15:06 04 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:06 04 January 2018

 

Original Interview featured in Eastern Daily Press: LINK: http://www.edp24.co.uk/going-out/school-for-stammerers-stutter-dave-mcguire-itv-television-1-5343062