‘School for Stammerers’ documentary showcases techniques

Steve Cairns, (right) from Edinburgh, who has overcome his stammer to become a voice coach, with Mueid Kaleem a pharmacist, he helps on ITV's 'School for Stammerers documentary.'
Steve Cairns, (right) from Edinburgh, who has overcome his stammer to become a voice coach, with Mueid Kaleem a pharmacist, he helps on ITV's 'School for Stammerers documentary.'
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A man who has largely conquered his lifelong speech disorder is to star in a major television documentary training other people to overcome their stammer.

Steven Cairns, who appears in ‘School for Stammerers’, a documentary being shown ITV on 9 January, said getting rid of his stammer was a “euphoric moment, like being “released from a dark cave I had been locked up in all my life.”

Mr Cairns, 35, from Edinburgh, said his life changed after hearing Pop Idol star Gareth Gates, talking about an intensive speech therapy course called the McGuire Programme, run by people who stammer, which had help the star overcome the affliction.

The McGuire Programme, founded in 1994 by Dave McGuire, a stammerer, is a four-day course which includes learning breathing and psychology techniques as well as ditching ‘filler words’ used to fill uncomfortable silences. Participants build confidence by being pro-active in conversation such as asking passersby what the time is or how to get to a destination.

Techniques must be practised every day following the course to maintain and continue progress.

“Growing up with a stammer left me feeling very isolated. When I was in 4th year at school I mostly stopped attending because I didn’t want to do things like give talks in front of other people,’ Mr Cairns said.

“After I left school I started drinking a lot, drifted in and out of jobs with no direction or prospects, and at one stage wanted to commit suicide.

“I’d had NHS speech therapy when I was younger but it was only for an hour a week. It was after I’d wanted to take my own life that my dad contacted the McGuire Programme and got me a place on their course in Dundee.

“It was almost like a boot camp and at the beginning where the coaches show a video of how they used to speak I thought ‘it’s a con. You’re a plant.’ But the course changed my life forever.”

Since undertaking the treatment programme nine years ago, Mr Cairns, has gone on to attend the former Telford College in Edinburgh and qualified as a gas engineer and now works as a supervisor for a gas company. He is also a staff trainer for the McGuire Programme.

On the documentary Mr Cairns, and others whose lives were blighted by stammering but underwent treatment, are paired with someone seeking treatment and take them through the innovative speech therapy course.