Irish martial arts instructor conquers stammer

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My name is Jamie Googan and I am proud to say that I am challenged by stammering.

As a child growing up with a severe stammer, I always 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 always self-conscious of my speech and what I was going to say. One of my biggest emotional struggles came from growing up without being able to say my own name without stammering; something that most people take for granted. I would always avoid situations where I would have to talk and sometimes even introduce myself using my older brother’s name to avoid stammering and being judged.

When I began martial arts at the age of five, from the moment I stepped inside that martial arts class, I knew it was for me. Martial arts offered me a place of personal freedom where I could be myself and not having to worry about being judged by anyone who was critical of my stammer.

From an early age, I became an expert at holding back and hiding my stammer, from 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 being judged by my peers.

When I heard about the McGuire Programme in 2008, for the first time in my life I could relate to people who had the same problem as I had. I knew that I was no longer alone and I was really impressed by how well each participant spoke. They spoke so confidently without any sign of struggle or avoidance. My parents really encouraged me to join, although it didn’t happen for another four years.

My first presentation in college was supposed to last five minutes but it lasted 28 minutes and from that shameful, embarrassing experience, I finally decided to join the course 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 had imagined but by giving it my best shot, using the back-up support network and being honest in my recovery, I continued to make further progress.

I found a new level of self-belief that I could have never imagined before. For the first time in my life, I found joy in speaking and communicating with others. I graduated from Cork Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Business in Sport and Exercise in 2015. The CIT Access Service played a vital role in my recovery from stammering and personal development, with one of only 13 assistive technology labs in the country. I availed of many supports such as academic writing skills, proofreading and a place where I could practice my presentation skills that played a big part in achieving my degree.

I now work with CIT’s Access Service where I help other students to be the best that they can be. Although I am challenged by stammering, with the right support network and work ethic, you can overcome any challenge as long as you believe in yourself.

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