A chronic stammerer told of her relief today after she finally learned how to say her own name – aged 24.
Rachel Rickard began stammering at the age of six and the problem became worse after she was bullied relentlessly at school.
Her speech impediment became so bad that she developed a ‘block’ on certain phrases and would spend up to two minutes trying to say a single word.
She struggled to pronounced ‘Rs’ – which made her name particularly difficult to say – and has been unable to introduce herself to people or answer the telephone.
However, she has finally overcome her block after joining the Mcguire programme, which cures stammerers with breathing and confidence exercises.
”I couldn’t book a taxi, a takeaway or a hotel”
Rachel, who grew up in Peterborough, Cambs., but now works in Glasgow, revealed that her life has ”been turned around” by learning to say her own name.
She said: ”I always felt terribly embarrassed in a situation where I might have to say my name and I knew I’d have to write it down or point at my name badge.
”Even a child can tell people their name and I couldn’t.
”Now I can I get such a kick out of just saying the words Rachel Rickard. Every time I answer my phone I say them – just because I can.
”It’s so basic but more brilliant than anyone who doesn’t stammer could ever imagine. Before I felt trapped, unable to communicate.
”I couldn’t book a taxi, a takeaway or a hotel. I couldn’t talk to people properly. Now my life has been turned around, I’m so grateful.”
Rachel, who is one of three siblings, first began stammering aged six and doctors could not pinpoint any event or incident that triggered the condition.
When she started secondary school she had to read aloud in French and German classes and was bullied relentlessly.
She said: ”Reading aloud in class was hell on earth for me and I started dreading it and losing sleep.
”People started picking on me, doing impressions of me stammering. That made me tense and the more tense I got the more I stammered. It was a vicious cycle.
”The worst thing is I was a sociable girl in my head and I loved chatting so much but I came across as shy because I was so afraid I’d stammer I wouldn’t speak.”
Rachel tried several course of speech therapy but after they failed she began hiding her speech problem by avoiding saying difficult words, mainly ones including the letters R, D, T and K.
She started ordering hot chocolates in cafes rather than her favourite cappuccinos because she couldn’t say the word without stammering.
Rachel stuttered on the word six, her shoe size, so would ask for size fives in shoe shops and then say: ”can I have the next size up please?”
When she moved to Glasgow to become an investment analyst in June 2009 the stress of starting a new job sent her stammer out of control and she could barely string a sentence together.
She signed up to the McGuire programme, a course for people who stammer run by stammerers, and has now been cured after 18 months of training.
She said: ”I went to the first meeting and did all these breathing exercises. Then we spent two hours practicing saying our names.
”That’s so hard for people who stammer because they know they can’t avoid those words so they become a source of extra pressure.
”The programme taught me non-avoidance, the words I hated saying the most I had to say over and over again. It worked.”
Rachel practiced her name over and over again for 18 months and has now learned to say it perfectly.
She is now training to be a coach for other stammering sufferers and has met her boyfriend – a fellow stammerer – through the McGuire programme.