Comac King receiving his CII Certificate on the October 2018 course in Newry

Overcoming Stuttering Along The Banks Of The Newry Canal

2018 is closing its doors and what a way to sign off the final Irish McGuire Programme course of the year! The ripple effect from the ‘School for Stammerers’ documentary is still inspiring people to seek the path to articulate eloquence.

Seventeen people courageously stepped forward to take control of their stutter in Newry. The course was held in the Canal Court Hotel. The course commenced at 7pm on Wednesday 24th October and finished up around 7.30pm on Saturday 27th October. Kara McMahon – from the Newry area – instructed the course. Kara steered a tight ship and her disciplined yet warm humourous approach kept everyone smiling and in good spirits.

It was clear from Kara that support was a crucial factor to start this new journey against stuttering. The McMahon family were involved throughout the 3-days, reinforcing that “we’re all in this together” mentality and breaking down that sense of isolation.

Up to sixty graduates, coaches and course instructors came back to work on their own speech but also to teach and support the new students’ to ensure they get the best possible start to their new journey. The McGuire Programme blossoms when we all help each other grow.

The different ages and backgrounds of those in attendance gave a vibrant atmosphere to the room.

It was great to see the transformations in seventeen very determined people in just 3 days. On Wednesday night they were ruled by their stutter, fuelled by fear. By Saturday they could see and feel the freedom of speaking with control. They now have the techniques and support to combat their stutter and to live the lives they have only dreamed of.

Another year of journeys started and people empowered.

Cormac King

Reality TV star Gareth Gates overcame a stammer

The difficulties and lost opportunities of living with a stammer

I spoke to this wonderful lady, Martina, who wanted to reach out to others and offer support. Over my career in healthcare I have had the privilege to work with the bravest individuals, from young to old, who experience stuttering in daily life. She put her thoughts in writing they were so powerful.

The Impact

Martina writes: “I have had a stutter for as long as I can remember, and my earliest memory of this is when I was about 4 and I was in school and I couldn’t say my name or read out loud. Reading in class was a nightmare. I would stand up but the words just wouldn’t come so the reading would pass on to the next student. Through my life in school nothing changed. I knew that I was different and I didn’t know what to do so I started to avoid words and speaking situations.

“I remember thinking, what will I do when I have to get a job? I never got the job I wanted because of my stutter. My first idea was to do a secretarial course and work in an office but realistically that was never going to happen because I couldn’t take or make phone calls. If I was in a place where a phone rang, I would walk away and pretend I didn’t hear it. I never made a phone call in earshot of anyone because I was embarrassed by my stutter and if I had to make a call I was very good at manipulating people to do it for me.

“I got a job in retail in 1975 when I left school, and it was only meant to be a summer job but I was employed and loved it. I had to turn down more interesting roles that I was so capable for as I would have had to make presentations make and take phone calls and interact competently on a daily basis. I made an excuse and declined the offer. I was very upset. I felt useless.

“I could never order what I wanted in a restaurant I would point at the menu if I wasn’t in a position to point I would order what I could say at that moment.

I would always struggle making appointments with doctors etc. Booking hotels I couldn’t say ‘double room’, I would say ‘a room for me and my husband’. Life went on and nothing changed. On my wedding day I cried walking down the aisle, so that when it came to saying my vows my voice was shaky and I could hide my stutter. I had planned this weeks ahead.

“I called my daughter a name I could say. When she was young I could never read her a bed time story. It made me sad. I never left the house without a pen and paper so that if I got into a stressful situation with my speech I would make an excuse and say that I had just come from the dentist and would it be ok if I wrote down my name and address as it was usually that that I would be having a problem with.

“That was the way I lived my life for 53 years. I did speech therapy and I tried hypnotherapy and neither worked for me.

“In 2002 there was a programme on TV called Pop Idol and there was a guy on it called Gareth Gates and when he came on stage he had to introduce himself and he struggled saying his name. He came second on that show and became a celebrity. I researched and found that he completed the McGuire Programme. I did a bit of research on the programme and I joined in 2010.

“I haven’t gone back to school where reading was a problem, but I put myself forward to do readings in my local church. Saying my name is no problem anymore and we are encouraged to say our name every time we answer our phone. I haven’t changed my job but I have no problem making or taking phone calls. I have gone for interviews just to prove that I can get through one with no fear of speaking. I enjoy making appointments and ordering food in restaurants not just for myself but for anyone else there too.”

Dr Eddie Responds;

I have recommended many people to the McGuire Program. Details on I have seen the transformation from old negative feelings of shame, embarrassment, sadness , stress and anxiety to competence, confidence, empowerment and finally freedom. Living with a stutter is very stressful. You can’t be the person you want to be and the McGuire Programme offers you a way out of this restricted life.

What I like most about the program is its organisation run by people who stutter to help other people who stutter.

They deal with both the physical and psychological side of stuttering. There is no cure or magic pill but with hard work courage and perseverance your life can be changed.

Martina reminded me the importance of raising hope for people who stammer.


Katie Walsh Late Late Show (Irish Independent)

Katie Walsh on The Late Late Show (RTE)

20 years after joining The McGuire Programme,  Katie speaks confidently and opens up about her struggle with a stammer as a child.

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

Brian Dempsey instructing the February 2018 course in Dublin

66,000 Steps To Control In Dublin – Overcoming Stuttering Together

Not everyone can relate to the physical struggle seen with a stutter but everyone can connect with raw emotion. The documentary in January did many things. It projected to millions how a person who stutters feels when they cannot say their own name or make a phone call in work. It revealed to stutterers what is possible through hard work and a little self-belief. Most importantly, it uncovered the “I’m the only person who stutters” myth and broke down that sense of isolation.

Eighteen very courageous people took the big step to finally gain control of their stutter in Dublin with the first Irish McGuire Programme course of the year. The course was held in the Ashling Hotel. The course commenced on Wednesday 21st of February and finished up at 7.30pm on Saturday 24th of February. Brian Dempsey – a Dublin native – instructed the course. Brian’s first course was November 2011 with Gareth Gates at the helm. Brian steered a tight ship and kept everyone energised throughout the 3 days. It was clear from Brian that discipline was going to be key during these next few days. “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments” became Mr Dempsey’s mantra during the course. The point was made that to break bad habits of a lifetime, discipline is going to be the cornerstone to success.

Around sixty graduates, coaches and course instructors (returning members) came back to help improve their own speech but also to teach and support the new students’ progress during the course.

Although there are many things that may separate the new students, they all share the one drive and determination for a better life, no longer controlled by their stutter. The younger new students were a breath of fresh air. They showed that a wise head really can sit on young shoulders.

Eighteen people took that first big step to control, and they all did fantastic. It was a pleasure to see them all grow and progress in confidence as the course continued. They now have the techniques and the support to help them improve and become the people they have always wanted to be whether it is speaking in church, making a speech or finally ordering what they want to order in a restaurant. Sometimes it’s the little things in life! Here’s to taking those steps to success (however little or big).

Cormac King

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


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: