Clairemarie McGrath

At 17, I was months away from starting college, I had applied for courses based on my ability to communicate during them, i.e. I hadn’t applied for primary school teaching due to my stammer I believed no-one would want a stammerer teaching their children.

My speech defined who I was and the path I was choosing to take. The day I got my leaving cert results was the day I joined the McGuire Programme.

On that 1st night when a McGuire graduate asked me “if speech was no longer an issue for u what would like to achieve” I couldn’t answer this question because speech not being an issue for me was so far beyond the realm of reality for me, it was something I rarely dared to think about….. My life changed 3 days later.

I began my BA degree in Galway and qualified with a degree in psychological studies and sociology with politics. During my 3 years I achieved those things that were unimaginable to me.

I began by being able to answer my dad’s office phone. Make my own phone calls and order my own dinners… My dad no longer had to do all this for me… Not to mention being able to introduce myself whenever I was asked my name.

Tutorials in college were an opportunity to speak and put forward my opinions…. something I have a lot of but rarely put across because that would mean stammering and thus the credibility of my argument being doubted.

I gave my final year presentation without a second thought… presentations to speech and language classes (I utterly hated speech therapists until I joined the programme) on how it feels to have a stammer and some of the issues that go on in our heads that influence our ability to take on what speech therapists advise.

I had changed my direction to psychology and needed to complete another years study to have my degree in psychology.

I went to Cardiff for this year’s study, making this decision would have been torturous with my stammer being out of control, leaving the protection of all those who knew they had to make the calls and order my food.
My speech didn’t enter the equation at this point in my life. My speech was no longer an issue for me and… well… my life had suddenly so many potential avenues to explore that were once the unthinkable!!!!

I began to dream about being a primary school teacher again – I went and volunteered in a school for a year a teacher’s assistant while in Cardiff and when I returned home my goal of training for teaching was more real than ever.

I went for the interviews, my 1st interview was heartbreaking because all the years work I had put into my speech crashed for those 20 minutes, the fear I had felt about being rejected as a teacher because of my speech got the better of me and my speech suffered.

Following this I spent the next 3 weeks talking to people I knew in the education system and I realised a lot about what is important as a teacher, by the time I went for my 2nd interview my only goal was to show them that I would be a fantastic teacher and nothing else mattered.

I got that interview! I’m now 9 months through my 18 months course, and please God this time next year I will be applying for jobs as a primary school teacher.
I went on to give a talk/interview at my local church during mission week. They asked for the young people to get involved in 1 mass, so I went to the introduction meeting and they asked for 2 people to be interviewed by the mission priest in front of the parish.

I was the oldest youth there at 21 and so they nominated me themselves! I was nervous because it was in front of several hundred people and everyone from my local community. I spoke about my life growing up with a stammer, I spoke about the things I began to achieve following the McGuire programme and I spoke about life in general.

The response I received was unbelievable, people continued to approach me and congratulate me for months after, because it was something they all said they wouldn’t do themselves…
But I had begun to dream the unthinkable… And perhaps one of the biggest of all achievements for me was a childhood dream, a dream before I realised what having a stammer would mean for me…

I entered into the Rose of Tralee at my county stages – this involved 3 interviews, one on my own and one group interview, followed by an interview on stage with the host for the night.
This was in front of a large audience of people including my family my friends and a lot of people from my county.

I also read a poem in Irish on the night, the significance of this for me was that during my 1st interview for teaching my speech caved on me when I was speaking Irish, this was a big cancellation for me and a chance to prove to myself I can achieve those once dared to dream ambitions and my speech will no longer decide for me what I can and can’t do!

The McGuire Programme gave me the confidence to dream and then the support to achieve.
I have been on the programme for many years now and I am privileged to be in a position to give back to the programme in helping all the people who join the programme and put their faith and trust in us.

As a coach and an instructor I enjoy the challenge of helping other people with their stammer – tackling their fears and their speech and helping to begin to dream about the things they would love to achieve “if speech was no longer an issue” for them.

Anthony Dennehy

I have to look back through the haze to remember what life was really like before I did my first McGuire course in 2001.

Unable to answer questions in school… even giving the wrong answer that I felt I could say, rather than trying to say the right one! Being asked to read in class… nothing coming out of my mouth… only sweat coming out of my hands from the fear and the struggle. Driving 20 miles or more each way rather than making a phonecall. My mother or my wife making all my phone calls for me. Not able to read a bed time story for my children. Not wanting to order a drink or a meal if I was out. Not wanting to speak if there was anyway out… even using notes where possible. If any if this rings a bell read on…. I heard about the McGuire programme in the late 90’s but didn’t do anything about it at the time. I finally plucked up the courage to make the dreaded call in January 2001. I went to my first course in the Ashling Hotel in Dublin in February 2001. They say life begins at 40… it definately did for me!! From the moment I walked into the room in the Ashling Hotel, even though it felt daunting, I felt I was no longer alone. I knew I was among a group of people who knew how I felt.They had been there before, lived through the fears I had experiecnced. The course was intense. Three and a half long days. The feeling of freedom increasing as the days passed. I recall the public speaking in Grafton Street and nearly floating off the soap box. Eventually on Sunday it came to the farewell speaches. I still remember saying that now I hoped to be able to help my wife Suzanne making some of the phonecalls and all the other jobs that I had left to her for the previous 10 years. As the programme states, it is not a cure. As a friend once said, it is like a game of golf. “We all have our bad days but we don’t throw away the golf clubs”. We just have to concentrate and practice harder! In the last 10 years I have got stuck here and there but life has been transformed. I don’t rely on others to make my phone calls anymore! I read regularly at the local church. Parent teacher meetings, doctors… the list goes on. Work is a pleasure rather than a nightmare. I joined Toastmasters and gave a good few speeches. I got the award for the best speech on the night with my first ice breaker! In 2002, I went to a staff training weekend and qualified as a Primary Coach and Course Instructor Intern. I enjoy being able to help and encourage other new graduates of the programme. If anyone reading this has any doubts or concerns about the programme all I can say is give Joe (The Irish RD) a call (or an email as I would have done!) – He’s a great guy. You won’t regret it… I didn’t. Maybe I’ll see you on the next course!!!

Beth Moore

Like many others, I’ve had a stammer from when I could talk. It was detected early by play-school teachers and I received phenomenal support from my family, schools, speech therapists and my Drama teacher.

I was fortunate that I was never bullied for my stammer, and I became quite a confident child as a result of compensating for my stammer and always encouraged to talk at home, something which my siblings hated claiming that they could never get a word in!

However even though no one else gave me grief for my stammer, I did that enough. I became a pro at throwing myself pity parties, every time I blocked or stammered I would be overwhelmed with guilt, shame, anxiety and embarrassment.
I unconsciously began to try to hide my stammer by avoiding eye contact, blinking through every word, covering my mouth and constantly pretending to forget the word so people would finish my sentence. I was always imagining situations where I wouldn’t have a stammer, always thinking I would have gotten a better mark in a presentation, I would have gotten that job, I would have added to group discussions, I would have said that interesting fact if only I didn’t have a stammer…

I had heard of the McGuire Programme ages ago when I was a lot younger, and my parents for many years would drop it into conversation. To be honest I was hesitant, and TV coverage which I had seen of the course where people would speak slowly voluntarily stammer sounded like my worst nightmare.

I eventually joined the programme in November 2012 in Galway, my third attempt after I chickened out twice before. I had finally had enough of my stammer dictating my decisions and how I felt about myself.

After my first course, I felt a change immediately. My world suddenly had endless possibilities to it. The most important thing that the programme has given me is a changed perspective on my stammer. I’m no longer controlled by it, but proud of it. It is now just another trait I have that makes up who I am.

The fantastic thing about the McGuire Programme is joining a great community of people who have all had similar experiences to you, something that I never had before and realised that I had never opened up honestly about my stammer.

The McGuire programme challenges your thinking and helps you physically and mentally control your stammer. I have recently became a coach on the programme, and look forward to listening and helping support others in their journey, just like so many inspirational people on the course have helped me.

Over everything McGuire has given me a sense of fearlessness and hope for future opportunities.

David McNally

Having somehow got through several presentations in college between 1996 and 1999, I swore to myself that I would never put myself through another one again.

The fear and anxiety that I built up in myself in the days leading up to these presentations was quickly replaced by feelings of embarrassment and shame as I stood in front of the class and tried to speak.

After college I worked in finance for several years, but I knew that this career was never going to make me happy.

In 2007 I enquired about a nutritional therapy diploma. At the open day the first thing that came to my attention was a presentation at the end of the first year, which would be June 2008 if I enrolled in the course.

Alarm bells rang in my head and memories of previous presentations came back to haunt me, but I needed a change in career so I decided to go for it. As June 2008 came closer I applied to join the McGuire Programme.

Luckily there was a place left for the May 2008 course. After 3 days on this course I actually believed that I could make my presentation in 4 weeks time.

In the days leading up to the presentation the feelings of fear and anxiety returned, but this time I had the support of the McGuire Programme to lean on. I used what I had learned from the McGuire Programme for my presentation and it went really well.

Instead of wanting to get it over with I stood in front of my class and took it all in. For 15 minutes I spoke eloquently and enjoyed the experience.

From that day to this one I have made more presentations in college and work and have spoken at a friend’s wedding. The fear is manageable now.