A Bonnyrigg man who suffers from a stammer wants to highlight the condition ahead of National Stammering Awareness Day this month.
Mark Straker spoke ahead of the annual day on October 22 and an upcoming course to be held in Stirling by the group that helped him cope with his stammer.
He said: “From an early age I have suffered with a stammer, not sure what if anything triggered it however, it was just part of me as a child. I tried various types of NHS speech therapy which worked in varying degrees, however, nothing notable to suggest it was resolved.
“School was a challenge at times, however, as I am a sociable person I did not let it stop me, and with a strong family behind me I left school at 16 and studied a BTEC in construction at the local college. College was better and I even managed to achieve GNVQ Student of the Year award!”
After a successful university spell at Heriot Watt, graduating in 2002 with an honours degree in construction management, Mark joined Robertson Construction in 2015, which has supported Mark’s battle with his stammer.
He said: “I have delivered several projects for Robertson, however I felt that my speech was beginning to get steadily worse over the last year and a half. This was starting to affect me as a person and knock my confidence, which it never did before.”
Mark’s life changed when he saw a TV programme called School for Stammerers in January 2018, which focused on six students with varying degrees of severity of a stammer who joined The McGuire Programme, which offers support, courses and help for people with a stammer.
He said: “The entire course is founded and instructed by people who stammer. Returning graduates come back and work on their speech as well as helping other new students on their quest. I instantly knew this was something that I needed to be a part of.
“Having made some initial enquiries about the programme and speaking to my family for their support I knew for certain this was something I needed to do.
“There was a course just the month after in February in Newcastle, which is near to where I grew up and where my parents still reside in Northumberland.
“I enquired about the programme to discover that the first part was a four day residential course where you have no contact with the outside world. This meant that I would not be able to speak with my wife and sons until the last day of the course at a family and friend speeches event. In addition, the cost of the course was significant, but with the support of my employer, Robertson, I was able to enrol.
“However, the course was absolutely fantastic and it has changed my life. The course has bolstered my arsenal of weapons to use in any speaking situation.
“The after course support is what sets the McGuire Programme apart from others. You are allocated 2 coaches, which you can call to chat in addition to access to hundreds of other coaches internationally via skype. There are regularly regional support groups and improvement days to keep it all topped up.”
Mark has recently become a coach on the programme in order to help new students achieve their speaking goals.
“Since then I have spoke at a full school assembly, a presentation at a cycling road race event, a hospital radio interview, STV interview on a feature on the news at six, and more importantly for me, I present at the monthly Stop for Safety in front of 200/300 people.
“This for me is simply amazing, to even imagine that I would seek out speaking opportunities now in front of 300 plus people would pre-McGuire be unheard of.”
The next intensive course in on November 6 in Stirling. See - www.mcguireprogramme.com/en/events.