I am a person who is very shy. I hate walking into a room full of people, and then having to make conversation. If I multiply this fear by 100, it may give me an idea of just how intimidating it is for someone with a stammer.
People with stammers have so many things they would like to say, so many jokes they would like to crack, and so many emotional sentiments they would like to express, but they can’t. Normal every day things that the rest of us take for granted, are sometimes completely impossible for them to say. Can anyone imagine how frustrating it must be to have all these thoughts inside you, and yet be unable to express them?
This in itself causes a tremendous lack of confidence, and it gets worse. Sufferers can find it so stressful in certain situations, that rather than embarrass themselves, they withdraw from them, and hide themselves away at home where they feel safe.
Children with stammers are often teased and mocked because of this at school, and the problem only gets worse as they grow up, and need to lead an independent life. Sometimes they are born with a stammer, and sometimes it develops because of something emotional which may have happened to them. Every sufferer would obviously like to wake up one morning and find it gone, but sadly for them, life is not that easy.
An American called Dave Mc Guire, recognised the need to set up a Programme to help sufferers, and this has been so successful, not only is it available in the United States, but also in the UK, and many other parts of the world. He states that it is not a cure, but a way of mastering the stammer, and not the other way round. It helps confidence, and by the end of it, participants can not only use the telephone successfully without stammering, they will also have experienced public speaking.
The basis of it is to control breathing techniques, and the sufferers are encouraged to think of themselves as athletes doing warming up exercises. How wonderful it must be for these people when they complete the course!
When Gareth Gates appeared on Pop Idol, his speech was at its worst. When asked what he wanted in life, he explained with great difficulty, that if he became famous, he wanted to use his fame in a good way to help others. He did this, by firstly enrolling on this course in an effort to beat his stammer. After achieving that, he then took exams, and went on to be the youngest person to qualify as a Speech Coach, and subsequently led his own courses, which he still manages to do as well as his career.
He has a battle with his speech even now, as he explains, he has good days, and bad days, but he never lets it beat him. Interviews can be hard for him, as he is not sure what the questions will be, but his recent part as Marius in Les Miserables, did not deter him. He had learnt his script, and was word perfect.
When he was asked on the Jonathon Ross Show what he felt was his greatest achievement, he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t mention the sales of his records, nor the way his life has changed after all his success. He said ” Raising awareness of stammering.”
I agree with this, as he has been there, and knows just what a frustrating problem this is. The many people with various disabilities that he has inspired would agree with this too. The show business world can be very superficial, and he recognises true values that matter to people. If there is anyone out there reading this, who has a stammer, take heart, he is the proof you can be the master of it!