A Lancashire man who finally managed to beat his stammer through a specialised programme is now helping people in India who stammer to learn how to take control of their speech. Paul Paluch tells AASMA DAY his story.
Paul Paluch’s memories of childhood are clouded by recollections of struggling with a terrible stammer and coming up with ingenious ways to avoid speaking.
Throughout school, Paul avoided public speaking or performing in plays as he was scared of stumbling over his words.
His fear of speaking carried on throughout high school and he tried NHS speech therapists and even hypnotherapy, but nothing worked.
It was only a few years after leaving school that Paul watched Gareth Gates on television’s Pop Idol, who also had a stammer, and he realised he was not alone.
The week after, Pop Idol ran a piece on Gareth Gates attending a speech improvement course called the McGuire Programme and the results were amazing.
Paul plucked up the courage to attend his first ever McGuire Programme speech improvement four-day intensive course in Edinburgh.
Using a new breathing technique called “Costal Breathing” and a traditional psychological approach called “Non Avoidance”, the McGuire Programme helped Paul understand why he stammered and showed him ways of overcoming it.
Paul, now 35, who is an audio visual engineer who lives in Lancaster, has since been on many other McGuire courses to improve his technique and is now a course instructor and mentor for the programme.
Paul has won speaking competitions and been president of his local Association of Speakers Club (ASC).
He even went on to coach Gareth Gates.
As well as instructing courses in the UK, Paul has instructed courses in Bangalore, India to help people who stammer to take control of their speech and kickstart their journey towards articulate and eloquent speech.
Paul, who has just returned from his fifth visit to India instructing the McGuire Programme, says he feels a huge sense of achievement in helping others and taking on new challenges.
Paul says: “It was a real honour to be trusted to prepare and write a schedule to take to India and kickstart the new region for McGuire Programme India.
“Having spent 12 years on the programme in the UK, attending courses, organising support groups and improvement days for UK graduates of the programme, I’d built up a wealth of experience and knowledge, so taking this to India was an absolute joy.
“A McGuire Programme intensive course is pretty much the same the world over with subtle changes to suit the local cultures and languages.
“With 22 official languages and more than 1,600 mother tongues in use in India, it could have been very difficult to cater for everyone, but thankfully all the participants spoke beautiful English so I didn’t have any issues.
“We did however offer various sessions run by local graduates in several local languages to demonstrate how the McGuire techniques are transferable to any language.
Paul says that a lot of the culture in India is that people should not show or shout about anything that could be seen as a disability.
He says a lot of it is about self acceptance and learning techniques on the course run by stammerers for stammerers.
Paul explains: “The problem with most of the speech therapists in India as in the rest of the world is that they are not stammerers, unlike McGuire, which is run by stammerers,”
“As a result, they understand only the tip of the iceberg – about 10 per cent – of the problem. Ninety per cent of the problem remains unaddressed.
“Most of them aim at only improving the physical aspects of it but nobody talks about improving the psychological aspect, which makes a big difference in improving speech.
“The best way to overcome this is to face your fears.”
Some of the success stories from people in Bangalore who attended a McGuire Programme course include Nishant, a doctor who went on the course with the aspiration of regaining his old job in a hospital that he had to forego due to a severe stammer.
After the course, he was so much in control of his speech, he went straight back to the hospital to reclaim his old position.
Another success was Sabarish, a high school student who came on the course with an overt stammer with the hope of becoming an effective communicator in school.
He left the course with tremendous strength in his speech and courage to pursue his dreams.
Manojkanth, a Sri Lankan native attended the course with a stammer so severe, he was unable to say his name. He left the course so strong and confident with his speech, he wouldn’t stop talking on his last day.
Paul says his experiences since learning to tackle his stammer have been so rewarding, he would not change his life or remove the stammer that still hides inside for anything.
Paul says: “The journey I have been on while being a member of the McGuire Programme has been an incredible one.
“If someone were to offer me a pill to get rid of the stammer that still lurks inside me, I’d turn them down.
“Why? Because I’ve met some incredibly brave people, made some fantastic friends and achieved so many things I never thought possible –challenges my ‘fluent’ friends wouldn’t have done and learnt how to face adversity.
“I’ve instructed many courses both in the UK and India and helped dozens of people achieve their dreams.
“Why would I want to rid myself of the disability that has allowed me to be on this fantastic journey?”
• For more details about the McGuire Programme, visit: www.mcguireprogramme.com