Student tells how overcoming stutter has transformed his life
A Sheffield student who spent years trying to speak wants to shout from the rooftops after overcoming his crippling stammer.
Matt Smith, aged 22, suffered with a stammer for as long as he can remember.
Simple tasks such as buying a ticket on the bus or ordering a meal in a restaurant were difficult.
He said: “I lived a life that was trapped by fear of any and every speaking situation, shaking and panicking, stumbling through my words and wishing it to be over quickly so I could hide away again.
“I was very much an introvert. I got to the point where I couldn’t cope with it anymore. Every time I spoke I felt genuinely awful and really shy. It had got to the point where I thought that I had to try and change things.
“I’d had speech therapy from the age of five or six until I was about 15 or 16 and I’d also tried hypnotherapy. The effects of these weren’t long lasting.”
By this point Matt had moved to Norfolk Park in Sheffield and had started on a music promotion course at the University Campus Barnsley.
He signed up to a self-help course called the McGuire Programme in April, last year – and has not looked back since.
The programme teaches techniques to help stammerers to recover, such as breathing in a different way to have more control and get into a rhythm of speaking.
It has been praised by singer Gareth Gates in helping him overcome his stammer and was filmed for moving Channel 4 documentary Stammer School, which featured Educating Yorkshire star Musharaf Asghar.
Matt said: “The McGuire Programme was a course that my mum had found out about – I think she’d read about it in a magazine.
“When she first mentioned it to me a few years before I wasn’t ready for it. Then early last year I decided to bite the bullet and go for it.
“The programme gives you the tools to overcome your stammer, as well as acceptance of your problem.
“They get you out on the streets and get you talking to people to test these tools out.
“It has changed my life and made me a confident, outgoing, extroverted person rather than a terrified, shy person, trying to make myself as small as possible to avoid any attention.”
Matt was particularly inspired by the course tutors who have all suffered from stammers themselves.
He completed two intensive courses and is now using his skills to help others in similar situations.
Matt said: “It’s not an instantaneous thing. You have to work hard at it to see the results that you want. There was a big difference for me from the word go. I was working at it – making phone calls and talking as much as I can. It’s the kind of thing where you do want to go back. It is run by people who have stammers – they have all been on it.
“When you start going back you start helping new students.
“I was doing some of that on my second course in October. It was really good experience. I was helping out a person who was completely brand new to it, like I had been in April. It helps you to push yourself as well.
“I’m now aiming to become a primary coach on the course which will allow me to coach new students when they go home after their first course and help them throughout their journey with the programme.
“As part of this next step for me, I wanted to tell my story to bring the programme to the attention of Sheffield incase there is anyone out there who felt like I did before the programme.
“The best thing I ever did was pick up the phone and make that first call and I’ve never looked back.”
Nearly 600,000 people are affected by stammering
According to the British Stammering Association, about 459,000 adults and 109,000 children aged five to 16 in Britain stammer.
It affects people in different ways and can vary according to the situation they find themselves in, who they are talking to, how they feel about themselves and their speech, and what they want to say.
Speech may sound forced, tense or jerky, and people who stammer may avoid certain words or situations they know will cause them difficulty.
There is no known cure, although there are many therapies available to help sufferers regain control of their speech through hard work and perseverance.
The McGuire Programme takes a holistic approach that treats stuttering not so much as a problem with speech but more an issue with experience of communication and how people relate to others.
Iain Mutch, regional director of the McGuire Programme, said: “Everybody involved in the programme has been through it themselves – they have all experienced a stammer or a stutter at some point and have decided to do something about it.
“Another thing that is different about the McGuire Programme is its intensity.
“Everyone who has experienced the conventional speech therapy will have probably had an hour a week or had a block of six appointments and then gone to the bottom of the queue again.
“If you do one hour a week for a year that is still only around 50 hours, which is similar to what the course covers.
“I really believe that if you have all these blocks that you have generated, it takes a lot more intensity to control and then overcome it.”
Iain, did a course himself in September 2000 and became an instructor a year later, taking up the post of regional director in 2002.
* For more information about the McGuire Programme visit McGuire Programme