Stammer School

An emotional evening’s viewing. Nobody could have felt unmoved by the raw honesty of those adults who appeared in the documentary, by their stories of closing down their lives, by their anguish and self flagellation about what they have or have not done, and by their fear of what they were embarking on and whether it would help.

Feeling helpless and hopeless is commonly reported by our young people, their parents and the adults when they arrive at the Centre. They talk of ‘dark tunnels’ and ‘last chance saloons’. Some have never accessed help, others have received lots of therapy which doesn’t seem to help. And we do not offer the miracle cure, the Holy Grail.

Nor does the McGuire Program shown last night. It offers a technique, which, as Mushy says, can give control over the stammer, rather than overcome it. Speech control techniques are ten-a-penny and it doesn’t take too long to help a person with even the most severe stammer to gain control in a safe environment. It is giving them something which will help them in their real life which is the challenge. Knowing how to control your speech, but then being unable to use it when you need to just makes a person feel a failure and does the opposite of what it is supposed to. The McGuire programme helped Mushy, Vicky, Debbie and the others to test this out during the course within and outside their group, using a wonderful support system – mentors who have ‘walked in their moccasins’.

The programme also encourages the participants to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, to have a go and learn that they can survive it not going exactly to plan. These experiences make an enormous difference to confidence levels and give the message that the stammer does not have to get in the way.

So a really positive experience for those in the programme and those watching the programme. We are impressed by the dedication of those mentors who will continue to provide support as the participants strive to keep this going and build on it. The courage of Mushy and Vicky and Debbie inspires us all. And we will endeavour to provide the same life-changing experience to the children, young people, adults and their families who seek support at the Michael Palin Centre.