James Googan always avoided social situations and, if he had to turn up, would be described afterwards as ‘the shy’ or ‘quiet’ one. He wasn’t, he says. He was just terrified of stammering
Presentation was supposed to last five minutes but it lasted 28 agonising minutes. I was left ashamed and cringing with embarrassment
As a child I was always self-conscious of opening my mouth, terrified of what was going to come out..
I wondered why I spoke in a different way from other students and why they would laugh at me when I tried desperately to pronounce my own name. I was a child with a severe stammer.
One of my biggest emotional struggles came from growing up unable to do something that you probably do without a second thought: being able to say your name without stammering.
I avoided situations where I would have to talk and sometimes even introduced myself using my older brother’s name to avoid stammering. For some reason, I could say that.
I started martial arts at age five and from the moment I stepped inside that class at Real World Combat and Fitness, I knew it was for me.
Martial arts offered a place of personal freedom where I could be myself and not having to worry about being judged by anyone.
From an early age I had become an expert at holding back and hiding my stammer, at changing my words, to using filler words, to ‘forgetting’ what I wanted to say.
I struggled through primary and secondary school, consistently worrying about my stammer being exposed and facing judgment by my peers.
I first heard about the McGuire Programme on The Late Late Show in 2008 and for the first time in my life I saw and listened to people who had the same problem as I had.
I realised that I wasn’t alone.
I was so impressed by how well each participant spoke that night. They spoke so confidently without any sign of struggle or avoidance.
My parents immediately encouraged me to join the McGuire Programme but I didn’t. I couldn’t.
It took until after my first presentatation in college before I realised that I couldnt put it off any more .
The presentation was supposed to last five minutes but it lasted 28 agonising minutes. I was left ashamed and cringing with embarrassment. The following August, I decided to join the McGuire Programme in Galway and over the first year of my recovery, I off-loaded most of the baggage that I carried for 21 years.
Recovery from stammering was not as easy as I might have imagined but by giving it my best shot, recognising and using my great support network, and being honest in my recovery I continued to make progress.
One of the best qualities about the McGuire Programme is that its courses are run by stammerers for stammerers.
Mark Lee and Neil Thomas of Real World Combat and Fitness were a great help to me as were my parents and it was with backing like that that I was able to take my speech to the next level and conquer that dread of hearing my voice. Since joining the McGuire Programme three and a half years ago, I have found a new level of self-belief that I could have never imagined before.
For the first time in my life, I like communicating with others.
I graduated from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) with a bachelor of business in sport and exercise last year and during my time I had great support from CIT’s Access Service. There’s no doubt that kind of help played a vital role in my recovery from stammering and personal development.
CIT has one of 13 assistive technology labs in the country where students can get help with academic writing, proofreading, and with practising presentation skills that played a big part in achieving my degree.
I am currently employed by CIT’s Access Service where I help other students to be the best they can be.
Although I remain challenged by stammering, with the right support network and work ethic I’ve learnt you can overcome any challenge. It’s all about believing in yourself, something which is one of the goals of CIT’s Access Service.
If my story helps one person with a stammer to realise that they can recover, I will be even happier.
For further information on the McGuire Programme contact Joe O Donnell on 086 342 9602
Original Article featured in the Irish Examiner Wednesday, February 17, 2016