SOMETIMES people would walk off when Emily Boylett was trying to talk to them.
Queues would form behind her as she tried to ask for a ticket on the bus.
She had to get her mum to do simple tasks for her such as make a doctor’s appointment or order her a drink in a cafe.
Having a stammer ruled her life.
“I couldn’t be the real me,” she says, today a chatty 21-year-old.
“It was so hard talking with other people, that I didn’t do it.
“The worst thing was not being able to do everyday normal things that most people find easy.”
She says that doctors believe it may be a side effect of being four months premature.
As a youngster it blighted her life. Children laughed at her at school and trying to speak in front of the class was a ‘nightmare’.
“In class when the teacher asked something, I’d know the answer but I wouldn’t put my hand up. It made me feel angry and frustrated.”
Emily had speech therapy when she was eight, but found that it didn’t help.
She managed her life around her stammer, moving in a small circle of close friends, seldom going into new groups of people and getting other people to speak for her when she could.
Then, around four years ago, she saw fellow stammerer pop star Gareth Gates talking on television about how a training programme, the McGuire Programme, had helped him.
It took her another two years to build up the courage and go on a four-day intensive course in the technique at Bournemouth, but she hasn’t looked back since.
The course was extra special because she found out after enrolling that Gareth Gates was going to be teaching on it.
“It was amazing,” she enthuses.
“He has been an inspiration to me since Pop Idol. He was on telly with a stammer and you don’t see that. It helped a lot having seen how he struggled in the past to see him speaking in front of the whole room.”
The course focuses on a breathing technique and encourages you to use non-avoidance strategies, by having a go at saying your feared sounds and words.
Emily says it was an emotional rollercoaster, but after just 24 hours she went from being unable to say her name and address in front of a room of 60 people to being in control of her speech.
“It’s been life changing,” she says.
“It isn’t a cure. I have to do a 20-minute warm-up everyday. You speak from a different part of your body – your costal diaphragm, which is what singers use.
“If I didn’t do the breathing every day, I would slip back. It’s been a struggle and it takes a lot of hard work and commitment but it’s been worth it.”
Emily’s life has changed in many different ways.
Before the course she worked as a nursery nurse, but now she is a senior healthcare assistant at the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton.
“I couldn’t have done this job without the training,” she says. “I can talk to the parents and the staff and I have made lots of new friends. Now I can phone to make an appointment or to order a take-away and my friends can’t get me off the phone!
“If I’m in a big group I can join in the conversation. I’m never going to be the life and soul of the party, but I can say what I want when I want to.
“I smile more, and have a laugh with people. I don’t feel as worried about things and I can do what I want. I feel real freedom.
“I would say to anyone with a stammer, don’t suffer in silence.
There is help out there for everyone.”
STAMMERING - THE FACTS
- For more information visit mcguireprogramme.com and the British Stammering Association at stammering.org
- Stammering can take the form of repetition of sounds, syllables or words and can involve silent blocking of the airflow of speech when no sound is heard.
- It is not known for certain what causes stammering although research suggests it may be inherited.
- Five per cent of children under five will go through a phase of stammering, with up to a quarter of these at serious risk of developing chronic stammering which may persist into adulthood.
- It is estimated that 1.2 per cent of all school-age children stammer and that one per cent of adults stammer, with men affected four times more than women.
- The British Stammering Association says that children showing signs of stammering should be referred to a speech and language therapist (SLT) as early as possible.
- Speech and language therapy has proved to be most effective with children aged under five.