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Gareth Gates
Stop My Stutter


Gareth Gates in Stop My Stammer

Pop Idol finalist Gareth Gates talks about what it’s like to overcome a severe stammer, both for himself and for the people he helps in his role as an instructor on the radical speech therapy course the McGuire Programme. You can see the results of his work in the documentary Stop My Stutter.

Stop My StutterWould you have been able to do a phone interview like this 10 years ago?
Absolutely not. Hopefully, in this documentary we’ve captured how having a stammer really does affect people's lives. I joined the McGuire Programme in 2001, when I was 17. I went in thinking it wasn't going to work at all, but I was pleasantly surprised by how powerful it is. The course is run by people who stammer themselves, so they’ve experienced what the students are going through. We’re not just a bunch of academics who have read about what a stammer is.

On day one of the four-day intensive course you tell your students, ‘This is the last time you’ll be speaking like this.’ Did you feel that at times you were speaking with a confidence you weren’t necessarily feeling?
It’s pretty much down to how much these guys (the students) want it. We were all confident: I’m the instructor but it’s all about the graduates on this programme helping these guys as well. We had every confidence that it would work for every one of them, it’s just how they apply it in the real world. If they put the work in they can achieve anything. Sarah, for instance, has always wanted to be a school teacher; I spoke to her the other day and she’s now doing teacher training, something that she would never have dreamed of being able to do in the past.

How did you feel when members of the public were rude or dismissive to your students, like the man who said to Mohammed, ‘You can’t even talk properly!’?Stop My Stutter
That’s just part of it. We stammerers have hardened ourselves to that. I mean, school is horrendous for stammerers, we all know what children are like, and if there’s something wrong with you, especially if you can’t communicate at all. You do get the mick ripped out of you. So we harden ourselves to that, however I’m pleased the film has captured just how hard it is.

Stop My StutterIn the documentary Sarah’s boyfriend says that sometimes Sarah uses different words from the ones she originally wanted, in case she couldn’t say them, even when she was talking to her family and friends. That’s very sad.

That is just how the life of a stammerer is. And you do sound thick, and slow, when people ask you a question and you can’t give the answer. When I was younger people would ask me what school I went to and I’d make out that I’d forgotten the name of it. It makes you look really stupid and is soul-destroying. But the course equips stammerers with tools, which I use daily. Hopefully, this film will cast light on life for people with a stammer, so that when Joe Public meets a stammerer they’ll know a little bit more about it, and hopefully be a little bit more understanding.

Martina Fowler

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