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Stammer School

nlieckfeldt | 28.08.2014

Well. That was powerful and emotional stuff.

I liked how the programme made it clear how debilitating a severe stammer can be. How limiting. How distressing. There's no such thing as 'just a stammer'. "I'd rather lose a limb" says Vicky Croft who lost her fluency following a stroke only eight months ago when before she'd been 'the life and soul of every party'.

It is so clear that change can only come when there is the courage to make yourself vulnerable. To look at yourself just the way you are, and let others see you just like that. The temptation to hide, to give in to fear can be overwhelming. There's great risk, personal risk. But clearly also great mutual support. You're not alone, not on a McGuire course, nor in the stammering community as a whole, should you choose a different path.  

Talking, as Musharaf says, means to show the world who you are - this is the time in his life where he finds his own path, carves out his own niche and discovers with others who he is and who he wishes to be. But when speaking is hard, how can you do that? If you can't share of yourself with the world, where are you going to fit? We saw powerful emotions from loved ones and family worried about limited futures.

As always, and perhaps inevitably, the programme didn't focus on the hard work after the course. Maintaining the technique, keeping up the courage to change and be vulnerable, takes a lot of effort and a lot of support. I often felt it is the post-course support that marks approaches like the McGuire Programme and which is crucial to their success.

Accepting stammering, as was said elsewhere on this site, doesn't mean resignation, and it doesn't mean  'accepting the unacceptable'. If I were Musharaf, I'd find my speechlessness unacceptable. The only question is how to go about changing it.

Stammering shapes us, depending on our temperament, our experiences and our upbringing. We all arrive at this point, the point of "something's got to give, something has to change" in a different mould. And so there's no one size fits all. As a person who stammers, McGuire isn't for me. That's down to my temperament, and perhaps (if I'm honest) also to the luxury of no longer being a severe stammerer. But then, vocal fold management, or block modification, soft onset or mindfulness aren't really for me, either. However, speaking both personally, and as someone who's responsible for the UK's charity for stammering, I'm glad the option is out there for those like Musharaf to make the most of it.