After my second intensive McGuire course in Berlin, Germany, I feel energetic, gratitude, normal, loved, inspired.
I’ve been stuttering since I was around 7. I’m now 36 years old, mother of 2 girls: aged 8 and 6. Just to get it straight, none of my family members stutter, neither my siblings nor my parents. At school, I dreaded raising my hand to answer questions or give comments. I would rather take the beating. Reading English text aloud in the classroom was one of my biggest fears. Oh! Why was it so hard to get the words out? Why couldn’t I read fluently without blocks like when reading aloud to myself? I didn’t understand. I was lucky to have had great (girl) friends who never teased me during my school days. I studied in a boarding school for 9 years in Pokhara, Nepal.
Fast-forward – after working for 13 years in Finland as a software engineer, I quit my job last April. I really wanted to integrate my software experience with my business studies. But every time when some job description (non software related) excited me, one concern always remained – Can I speak?
I had heard of McGuire programme already back in 2000 when I was studying in Australia. Well, after watching how people spoke on the street, I was in denial. My stutter didn’t seem so bad like the ones in the programme! The thought of joining the programme didn’t cross my mind then.
Recently, one day I caught myself telling my husband – “I would do anything if I knew there was a chance and I really wanted it”. Then, at that moment I realised, how I was living in denial. I have had this stutter and hadn’t done much for it. It was even becoming a hinderance to my future job. Now, enough was enough. I was ready to face my challenge and take action. After all, I was doing it for MYSELF and not to someone else. So I started to google “McGuire Programme”. I also had another motivation to join the Programme. I was interviewed by a startup company for technical salesperson position.
Back then (around May – June) I really wanted that job. Coincidentally, during that time, I had also come up with a startup idea. To pitch my idea, I knew I had to speak with many people.
I am so glad that I contacted Emmet O’Connell. After knowing that the Programme will let me SAY what I WANTED to say without using tricks or filler words, I signed up. Finally, I was ready to let go of my shame and fear. Of course, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into but it felt so right!
My first intensive McGuire course in Dusseldorf, Germany last June has changed me in so many ways. It’s just been 4 months, but during this time many new exciting things have happened. I am now enrolled in Startup Program in Tampere, Finland and given 3 speeches in Toastmasters. I’ve made many phone calls and have had meetings with investors and prospect customers. McGuire Programme helped break down the walls I had built around me. I am so thankful to the coaches who gave me their time to speak with me. Especially, I would like to thank my primary coach, Bart van den Berg. Mary Moorehead (Ireland), thank you for being there when I was let down and for your presence. You are always wonderful to talk to.
“Anything that is usually a means to an end, make it into an end in itself.” – Eckhart Tolle. “The Power of Now”, book by Eckhart Tolle has helped me understand the deeper meaning of life and is helping me tackle the psychological factors of my stutter. In my opinion, it complements McGuire teachings perfectly. I highly recommend you to read this book, if you haven’t already. Anyone, including those who don’t have a stutter can learn to live in presence by reading this book.
In my second course in Berlin, I noticed some changes in myself. I was no longer asking questions like in my first course. I was comfortable practising deliberate dysfluency. I was thankful that I had decided to join the program in my “make up mind” session in Dusseldorf. I was inspired to see improvements of returning graduates. As a bonus, the number of Facebook friends jumped after the Berlin course 🙂 Emmet, it is really a great experience to take the class from someone who is so passionate about what he does! Thank you once again for the great course and the effort you put in.
Let us not get wrapped up in our own life situations. Let us not compare ourselves with others. Remember that “if ego can’t be the best it wants to be the worst” (Eckhart Tolle). So let us try to live aligned with our inner presence and practice McGuire techniques 🙂 There will be ups and downs but if the anchor is in the right place, we won’t get lost…
In February 2008 I took a leap of faith and joined the McGuire Programme, instantly I felt at home. A room full of stutterers is a highly unusual thing, especially when they are all talking openly about stuttering and supporting each other. Therein lies the magic of the McGuire Programme.
In the days, months and years that followed my commencement on the programme I was on a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Ultimately it was the McGuire technique that got me through the bumps along with the immense support of the coaches and instructors. My perseverance and motivation to gain control of my stutter prevailed.
8 years later, here I am, a newly certified course instructor intern, wanting to give back to the McGuire Programme that has given me so much. Society is full of inspirational people and stutterers are no exception to this. On the McGuire Programme you meet people of all walks of life, each inspiring in their own right.
Articulate eloquence shines bright in these people and this is my ultimate goal.
As I sat in a university lecture, my breathing was shallow and fast, my palms sweaty and my heart raced as one-by-one my classmates stood up to speak. This scene played out countless times before but the panic, fear and anxiety intensified each time this situation came around. I looked down at the book and the literature review I had written on the book. Nervously I agitated in my seat. Any semblance of confidence I once had in my own ability was on the floor and soon it would be my turn.
As my fear escalated, my focus and determination simultaneously vanished. ‘Just take it in your stride,’ I told myself. I was visibly uncomfortable, like always, and was consumed with the fear of being ‘found out’, of being seen as stupid and incompetent, of being pitied, of being a stammerer. Then it came: “Patrick Hanlon, you’re next to speak…”
“Ah…..muh……th….I….I”, I couldn’t even begin by stating the title of my report in front of my class, let alone eloquently broadcast the key points of the report like everyone else before and after me. My mind raced as I tried to conjure up different ways to communicate what I simply couldn’t get to leave my lips. Every trick and avoidance mechanism I tried to use failed me. If I could have physically run away, I would have; I was running away in my mind. After five excruciating minutes of broken sounds, non-words, speech blocks and facial struggle, I had to ask red-faced and humiliated to stop. I finished my 1,000 word report after one sentence.
As I sat in my college seminar waiting to be called to speak, I didn’t know it but that marked my lowest point. I was losing a lifetime battle I had to endure and at that point I was honestly ready to give up. I’ve suffered from a stutter my entire life and this was everyday life for me, and for so many others like me. Quietly fighting an internal war with yourself and avoiding situations, words and sounds. Choosing how to phrase things. Reaching for different tricks and coping mechanisms. Things as banal as saying your name at Starbucks, ordering a dish off the menu at a restaurant or answering the phone can be the most excruciating.
A stutter, or stammer, is a speech impediment that affects around 1% of the world’s population. You probably know loosely what it is and you might have come across stutterers every so often in your life. Maybe you’ve followed Pop Idol singer Gareth Gates’ speech difficulties or watched the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech. You might have been glued to the Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary Educating Yorkshire and cried tears at school boy Musharaf’s speech breakthrough.
Living with a stutter is really tough. I’m sometimes asked by fluent speakers what stuttering feels like and I explain it like being blind but with occasional glimpses of perfect 20/20 vision, or being deaf and having small, random spurts of crystal-clear hearing. A stutter is a beast and a real battle between physical and mental state. No two stutters are the same. There is a scale of covert (practically unrecognisable) to overt (incredibly obvious) but even day-to-day how a stutter interrupts your life can be drastically different from person to person. Good days and bad days come and go, but the constant is that your stutter is always there.
I’m a freelance writer, and I spent my entire life battling a stutter, sailing turbulently along and calling at many ports of speech therapy and different teachings and techniques. At 21, the same day of that excruciating scene described above, I found a lifeline in The McGuire Programme, an immersive, intense speech therapy programme run by people who stutter for people who stutter, combining a new way of breathing (from the costal diaphragm, not the crural – which we use naturally) and a transformative mentality. It works for some people, it doesn’t for others and it’s certainly not a quick fix or an easy ride.
Though, I need to assure you: people who stutter are some of the funniest, most intelligent, sharpest and confident people I know. I’ve met hundreds of them. Take it from me, they’re rarely shy, nervous or unsure of what they want to say and some even have comedic timing to rival the best in the business. Unfortunately, before they can communicate what their brain is thinking, their stutter interrupts the process, gets in the way and can often step them in their tracks. But you don’t have to live this out of control way…
I still battle my stutter every day, I will for life. You never lose a stutter. It doesn’t go away and there’s no definitive ‘cure’ – no matter what Google might lead you to believe. What you can do, though, is change your perceptions and mentality and take on board different ways to go about living with a stammer so that it’s no longer an issue that dictates the everyday. My life has been transformed and I live how I never thought I could, never forgetting where I’ve come from as I work hard and confidently on my speech every day in my quest for eloquence and a comfortable level of fluency. So, I want to share three insights on how you can too.
So, there’s a common saying in social work: ‘lean in to the discomfort’, and the same applies here. Whatever makes you uncomfortable, explore it, pull it apart and understand it. When you see the sum of its parts, it’s not so scary any more. Sure, there will always be other scary things lurking around the corner, but having a mentality that you can tackle anything, that you’re bigger than what scares you, and that you’re a strong and confident person will ensure that you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. A stutter seems physical and it is – our diaphragm and speaking system freezes in the face of fear – but really 90% of it is mental. Re-assess how you approach situations, what your mentality is and how you relate to yourself.
Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway
Ask a person who stutters what makes them most uncomfortable and many will say something like ‘blocking and struggling in front of strangers’, ‘stuttering in front of my kids’, ‘being seen as stupid, inferior or incompetent by my work colleagues’ – always anxious and worried about how the ‘listener’ is perceiving you, yet the biggest focus needs to be on how you as a person experiences your own speech. Why are you speaking thinking about everyone else? The only thing that matters is how you feel when communicating. Susan Jeffers’ book Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway is well worth anyone reading.
To use another common expression, ‘play to win’. Don’t go through life dodging obstacles that get in your way and waiting for the next wave to hit. Power through the wave. Tackle opposition head-on. Look a challenge in the eye and see it through. You have no idea how much confidence you’ll gain from having a proactive, rather than reactive, mentality.
Do you see a common thread? It can be summed up in one word: embrace. Uncomfortable and difficult, I know, but when you embrace something fully it becomes less and less of an issue. Most people who stutter will tell you it’s the one aspect of their lives they despise and hate even thinking about or showing anyone. But here’s the crux: you need to break it apart, build up your confidence step-by-step and live the way you want to. You have to walk through that big scary door that’s stopping you and face your fears.
Don’t force yourself to live in fear when there’s a whole wide world out there, a world waiting to hear what you have to say.
A Corkman who overcame a debilitating stammer to become a confident public speaker wants to help others do the same.
Since he was five years old, Jamie Googan has struggled with a stammer: “Growing up, I always wondered why other people would laugh at me when I tried desperately to pronounce my own name or any other words,” he said.
“I suppose that one of the biggest things for me when I was growing up was I have never met anyone else had a stammer, so there was always that feeling of isolation there,” Jamie added.
As he grew older, Jamie said the stammer got progressively worse, to such an extent that saying his own name became impossible.
When he was 16, Jamie saw an interview with Pop Idol singer Gareth Gates, who overcame his stammer through taking part in a method which helps people with speech impediments called the Maguire Programme.
However, it took Jamie four more years to build up the courage to take the course, when he says he hit “breaking point” when he went on to third level education in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
“So my first presentation inside here in CIT was supposed to last five minutes, but it lasted a lot longer and I left that room with a lot of shame and embarrassment and guilt. I think that was my breaking point where I knew that I had to make that phone call and reach out and ask for help,” he told Ireland Live News.
Help was also at hand from the Cork Institute of Technology’s Access programme, which helps students with challenges or difficulties they may face.
Head of Department of Sport, Leisure, and Childhood Studies at CIT, Dr Cian O’Neill said the facilities available to Jamie were key: “There’s a huge assisted learning centre, and it’s quite a technology-based centre here in CIT and it’s one of only 13 in the country. I know that Jamie really would have got a lot of benefit from that.”
Jamie graduated from Cork Institute of Technology with an honours degree in Sports and Exercise, and now works at CIT.
He hopes his story will give others the confidence to seek support they may be in need of: “I’m in control of my speech, and it’s changed my life forever,” he said.
Story by UTV Ireland Staff, Dublin – Original Article Featured in UTV Ireland
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Oscar-winning film raising awareness of stutters and stammers
With the recent Oscar success of the Irish short film ‘Stutterer’, listener Ciaran McGonagle got in touch in the hope that people who have a stutter know there is help available.
He dropped into the studio to talk to Anton about overcoming his stutter and how he is now helping others overcome theirs.
Have a listen here:
Ciaran overcame a stutter and is now helping others
Show: The Anton Savage Show
With the recent Oscar success of the Irish short film STUTTERER, Ciaran McGonagle got in touch in the hope that people who have a stutter know there is help available.
After we featured a couple of interviews with Oscar-winning Irish film-maker Benjamin Cleary about his short film ‘Stutterer’, Ciaran sent us an email:
“Hi Anton, I began to stutter at around the age of 4. I was quite ‘overt’, meaning it was quite pronounced up until my teenage years when I started to try to cover up my stutter. I learned tricks and techniques that aided me in hiding who I really was.
These techniques, however, only really worked in certain situations and when the pressure was on my speech would fall apart and my confidence would take a severe blow.
I continued to hide my stutter from everyone, including myself, until my early twenties when I realized that I really had to address the problem. It was causing huge frustrations in my career and personal life.”
He tells Anton how he grew up in Donegal and for as long as he can remember he’s had a stutter. He was what you’d call ‘OVERT’ – it was obvious for all to hear. He remained OVERT until his teenage years – when he became self-conscious of his stutter, becoming COVERT, using techniques to hide his stutter. He tells Anton having a stutter was like an ice-berg – 10% of the problem is the physical stutter – 90% is an emotional struggle.
In 2006, aged 26, he rang Joe O’Donnell in The McGuire Programme but it took two years to pluck up the courage to attend his first class.
It worked, and Ciaran now helps others to overcome their stutters.
He reveals that 90% of stutterers can’t say their own name and the cause of a stutter is unknown – it could be a traumatic experience or illness. The McGuire Programme has around 9,000 members worldwide and 1,500 in Ireland alone.
You can contact the McGuire Programme through stammering.ie
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