A Kilrea man has described as “life-changing” an innovative programme to tackle “the guilt and shame” of his lifelong stutter.
Dominic Sutton (35) is encouraging others with a stammer or stutter to consider joining the McGuire Programme.
The treatment programme is run by stutterers and involves the use of costal breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) to control the condition.It was founded in 1994 by Dave McGuire, himself a person who stammers.
The programme’s best known graduate is the singer Gareth Gates who has regularly promoted the course.
Other graduates include Graeme Duffin, the lead guitarist of the band Wet Wet Wet - who Dominic speaks to regularly - and the Scottish international rugby union captain, Kelly Brown.
Dominic was advised to check out the McGuire Programme by a speech therapist who used to come into a bar/restaurant where he worked.
The course essentially focuses on two things: teaching a way to control one’s speech using breathing and pauses, and working through the psychological side of having a stammer.
“I went to a job interview and badly stuttered throughout it and when I came home I was in bits,” said Dominic.
“It was then that my wife encouraged me to sign the forms and join the course.”
Dominic went on his first three day course to Dublin in February and followed that with another in Galway in June.
“At first they assess what level your speech is at by asking you simple questions such as your name, address and hobbies.
“They record your answers and then over the next couple of days they encourage you to use costal breathing to help with your stutter.”
Dominic says that there is no quick fix to tackling his speech impediment.
“It’s a lifelong process, I will have to work at it for the rest of my life. There’s no magic pill or cure.
“For me the simplest things were a daunting experience but the McGuire Programme has been life-changing and I would encourage others to try it.”
The dad of two said he has stuttered “ever since I could talk or form words, from the age of four onwards”.
“Living with a stutter is one of the hard things I’ve had to cope with, especially given that I have a twin brother who can talk normally. I always thought why can he speak normally and I can’t.
“I suffered a lot of bullying at school and even as an adult you have to face people laughing at you.
“I used to dread answering the phone, ordering food in a restaurant or even introducing my wife and kids to people. I would hide away from it.
“People with a stutter often feel self-hate, guilt and shame. The programme has made me a lot more confident and helps you to get over that fear of stuttering in front of people.”
Those on the course are encouraged to come out of their comfort zone: “I used to hate using the phone but since February I must have made about 10,000 phone calls - instead of using Facebook, texting or email.
“Since being on the McGuire Programme I’ve even done a couple of presentations - one in June to a room full of people, something I can never imagine doing before.
“It was amazing being able to stand in front of people and feel in control of my speech. And just last week I did an interview on Skype to a McGuire course in Germany. The good thing about the programme is that it is run by people with stutters.
“The support you receive is excellent and I’ve been able to speak to coaches from all over the world in places like Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and India.”
Dominic has just begun a new job as a carer assistant at a local residential home and will go on another McGuire course to Belfast in October.
“Before I did the courses I’d have been hiding away not wanting to speak to anyone. No words can describe the feeling of the difference it has made.”