Barry McGee avatar

Barry McGee

Software Engineer


Imagine an invisible choke leash around your neck that could be yanked at any time?

When I was 19, I travelled to Dublin for a long weekend to work on my speech, specifically, my stutter. The course I attended was The McGuire Programme and that weekend, if it's not too cliche to say, changed my life.

As long as I can remember, I've been plagued with a stutter/stammer. It wasn't an issue for me in primary school except when I was dragged away from playing football to see a speech therapist. It did however come into sharp relief on my first day of secondary school, when every new teacher required each of their new faces to stand up and disclose their name, townland and preceding siblings, if any, to the rest of the class.

From then on, speaking in public, and indeed speaking in general became a conscious challenge.

Roughly 1 in 100 people have a stutter and the ratio of males to females affected is 5:1. Despite it's prevalence and the advances of modern medicine, the reasons for why people stutter remain largely a mystery. Cut open a stutterer with a scalpel and you'll not find any defects with the machinery we use to speak which suggests it's neurological. There is strong emerging evidence to suggest it's also genetic.

There remains no cure.

For most people who stutter stress, anxiety, and other emotional states can exacerbate stuttering, although they are not considered primary causes. Indeed, stuttering itself can lead to anxiety and stress in social situations, creating a fantastic feedback loop that reinforces the condition. I experienced this first hand and it's nothing if not humbling.

However, I'm constantly reminded by the radio every morning that everyone has their struggles and many struggle with much worse.

The greatest gift The McGuire Programme gave me was not fluency but the ability to talk openly about my stutter. This alone was enough to unlock the confidence to do many things I assumed I would never do such as give talks and presentations, give a groom's speech at my wedding and the best man speech at my brother’s wedding.

I'm also happy to report that in my fortieth year, while each day is rarely stutter-free, each day is mostly stress-free with regard to my speech. I shy away from nothing and try to grab any opportunity that presents itself to push out of my comfort zone.

That in itself is a win.