Simon Madden is a 14-year-old recovering stammerer who comes from Loughrea. While Simon is now a contented teenager, he admits stammering previously had a negative effect on his everyday life.
His confidence suffered and he admits he found it difficult meeting people or speaking on the telephone. “This time last year I wouldn’t have been able to have this conversation with you because I would have been stammering and blocking and I probably would have hung up the phone by now,” he says.
Approximately one in every 100 people is challenged by stammering and it affects their everyday lives in such ways as answering the telephone, ordering food in a restaurant, or checking in to a hotel. The McGuire Programme is a recovery programme run by recovered or recovering stammerers and the programme teaches individuals to overcome their fear of speaking by concentration, breathing exercises, assertiveness and non-avoidance techniques.
The McGuire Programme has thousands of members worldwide. Pop star Gareth Gates has benefited greatly from it. He completed the course after his first X Factor audition and then went on to win the show. Gates has now passed his coaching qualifications and is a course instructor. In recent years he visited Galway and he was the main instructor and speaker for a weekend course.
Simon joined the McGuire Programme over 12 months ago and his progression and development in dealing with his stammer in such a short time has been remarkable. He says the determination within the group to help each other makes the programme so beneficial. Initially there is an intensive course to help individuals and Simon says the support after this course is fantastic.“You’re on a phone list so that anyone on the McGuire Programme can ring you,” he says. “I ring four to five coaches every evening just to practice my techniques.”
In the past year Simon has been assigned a primary coach to assist him, he regularly attends local support meetings, and he believes he is lucky to have benefited from the McGuire Programme so young. He says, “ I’m very lucky I joined the programme at the age I am. There are older people who have stammered for 40 or 50 years.”
Some individuals, he says that are now on the programme have lived their lives in jobs they disliked. “They wouldn’t go for interviews because of their stammers and they lacked the confidence,” he adds. “I won’t have that fear because when I leave school I’ll have been on the programme for three years.”
Simon says the McGuire Programme has changed his quality of life and he is very optimistic about the future. The McGuire Programme Galway Support Group will present an Open Information Evening at 8pm on Tuesday June 1 in the Harbour Hotel, New Dock St, where recovering and recovered stammerers will talk about the McGuire Programme and share their own personal experiences. Anybody with an interest in the subject is welcome to attend.