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Ingleby Barwick man enjoys speaking after overcoming stammer
BULLIED for having a stammer throughout his childhood, Andy Kelly gave himself the best 50th birthday present he could have wished for - a speech therapy course that has changed his life.
Taunted by other children and forced to read out loud in class, his school days were an endurance test which resulted in him becoming withdrawn.
But just two months ago he stood on a soapbox on Northumberland Street, Newcastle, and bellowed out his name in front of a crowd of shoppers.
Mr Kelly, from Ingleby Barwick, near Stockton, said: “Life at school was difficult for me. The other kids quickly learned how to bully the kid with a stammer."
Despite being a promising sportsman, his debilitating speech impediment held him back.
“I felt secure once I’d joined groups playing football and cricket but when I was asked to go further as an individual to county trials I couldn’t go in case I had to speak."
It was while the married father-of-three, a maintenance technician at Northumbrian Water was on a customer training course that he felt compelled to seek help.
“We were sat in groups and my heart was bursting,” he recalled. “I used a trick to get my name out in the introductions, managed to settle down and got through the day. When we finished I felt I had to explain my situation to someone.”
After telling his story to a customer advisor, his firm helped him secure a place on the McGuire Programme, made famous by pop singer, Gareth Gates.
“Although the course in Newcastle fell on my 50th birthday in August, I knew this was the time to stand up and address the problem that had controlled my whole life.”
Less than two months since he took to the soapbox to speak, he is now planning to give presentations to senior managers and a reading at his local church.
Mr Kelly said his recovery would be a long term process and he is already booked to go onto another McGuire Programme course this month to hone the technique.
“It’s the little things like answering the phone, ordering a meal in a restaurant and being able to have a conversation with strangers.
“I’m a much happier person and better to be around. Everyone says I smile much more and that I’ve come out of my shell.”
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