Breaking free

The prison of a stutter

Many people face a lifelong struggle with stuttering. Adam Black relates how a unique approach was life-changing for him, enabling him to break free and be himself.


Frustration and isolation

Stuttering is a hidden disability and one which affects 1% of the world’s population. For many people who stutter, the world can be an intimidating place to live and one in which a stutterer can feel isolated.

As a stutterer myself, I used to feel feelings of anxiety and embarrassment every time I spoke. I felt alone and that no one could understand my situation. I left school and chose a course at college that involved little to no speaking even though all I wanted to do was be a teacher. This feeling of wanting to be something and being forced to be something different was very difficult to take. I was frustrated at myself and frustrated at the world around me.

Support at hand

Then, 10 years ago, I found a stuttering therapy course called The McGuire Programme. This is a unique therapy option as it is run for people who stutter by people who stutter. After my first course, everything changed for me. I no longer felt alone. I had a support community of other people who knew what I was feeling.

New techniques

The McGuire Programme taught me techniques to control my stutter, both physical and psychological. The physical techniques include a new way to breathe when speaking and an assertive tone when speaking-no holding back on sounds. The psychological techniques were about defeating the negative associations I had built up around speaking.

This included speaking dysfluently in a controlled way. Being dysfluent on my own terms gave me the confidence that it is fine to speak differently from other people and it allowed me to stop hiding and to accept myself as a person who stutters. This shift in mindset was the most difficult change, but was the most important – I was finally accepting who I really am.

A new direction

Around seven years ago I decided to retrain as a teacher and now work in a busy primary school in Glasgow. I am very open and honest about my disability with colleagues, parents and children. I teach children that it is perfectly acceptable to be different and it gives hope to people who themselves struggle with barriers to achieving their full potential.

I have also been selected as the Equality and Diversity representative for Glasgow teachers, a voluntary role. This role means I can speak to others in the profession about any issues they may have around equality and diversity-this is something I certainly never imagined I’d be doing previously.

Fresh achievements

Since joining The McGuire Programme and accepting my disability I have achieved things I never thought I could achieve. I have presented at academic conferences – relaying data from my master’s level qualification; I have given a best man speech and I’ve given a speech at my own wedding. It’s also about being able to do the little things, like ordering a take away or getting my train ticket. The McGuire Programme changed my life.

Over the past ten years I have dedicated much of my spare time to promote awareness of stammering and to reduce the stigma around speaking to people who stutter. This has included me sharing my story in newspapers, radio and on live TV several times.

Embrace your quirks

My final message would be to embrace your quirks: they make you who you are. When I finally did that, I started to like myself and my life a whole lot more.


Adam Black

Adam is a teacher from Glasgow with an interest in inclusive pedagogy. His interests outside of school are football and tasting real ale as often as possible. In January 2016 he received the British Citizen Award in recognition of his service and achievement.


Click on the logo  to find out more about The Mcguire Programme


For more about the British Citizen Awards and how to nominate someone for outstanding service or achievements, see


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