As a stutterer myself, I used to feel feelings of anxiety and embarrassment every time I spoke. I felt alone and that no one could understand my situation. I left school and chose a course at college that involved little to no speaking even though all I wanted to do was be a teacher. This feeling of wanting to be something and being forced to be something different was very difficult to take. I was frustrated at myself and frustrated at the world around me.
Then 11 years ago, I found a stuttering therapy course called The McGuire Programme. This is a unique therapy option as it is run for people who stutter by people who stutter. The physiological techniques were about defeating the negative associations I had built up around speaking. This included speaking dysfluently in a controlled way. Being dysfluent on my own terms gave me the confidence that it is fine to speak differently from other people and it allowed me to stop hiding and to accept myself as a person who stutters. This shift in mind set was the most difficult change but was the most importance-I was finally accepting who I really am. By accepting myself as a person with a stutter, I was dealing with those feelings below the surface and melting away the 90% of the iceberg people don’t see.
In 2010 I decided to retrain as a teacher and now work in a busy primary school in Glasgow, Scotland. I decided to retrain and follow my dream as I felt I was at a stage where my speech, my stuttering, no longer has a impact on how I live my life and in turn would not have an impact on giving children a solid education. I am very open and honest about my disability with colleagues, parents and children. I teach children that it is perfectly acceptable to be different and it gives hope to people who themselves struggle with barriers to achieving their full potential. Parents of children in schools where I have worked appreciate that their child is seeing a person being honest about who they are, warts and all. I have also been selected as the Equality and Diversity representative for Glasgow teachers, a voluntary role. This role means I can speak to others in the profession about any issues they may have around equality and diversity-this is something I certainly never imagined I’d be doing previously.
Since joining The McGuire Programme and accepting this hidden disability I have achieved things I never thought I could achieve. I have presented at academic conferences- relaying data from my master’s level qualification, I have given a best man speech and I’ve given a speech at my own wedding. It’s also the little things like ordering a take away or getting my train ticket.
Over the past eleven years I have dedicated much of my spare time to promote awareness of stammering and to reduce the stigma around speaking to people who stutter. This has included me sharing my story in newspapers, radio and on live TV on several occasions. I also take opportunities to present on stuttering at teacher conferences. I do this in an attempt to ‘normalise’ stuttering to teachers who have told me from their experience, they are often uncomfortable dealing with children who stammer in their class. Small tips or ideas to make the learning process more enjoyable or accessible to children who stammer is something I will happily do for the rest of my life. If it helps one child every time I speak then I’ve done something worthwhile. This work raising awareness of stammering resulted in me receiving a British Citizen Award in January 2017 for my services to education.
My final message would be to embrace your quirks, they make you who you are.