‘Ino­longer try to hide my stut­ter’

When Ol­lie Glee­son fi­nally found a way to cope with his speech im­ped­i­ment, it changed his life. Here, he tells Ar­lene Har­ris how breath­ing tech­niques and be­ing up­front have been vi­tal tools

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - REAL LIFE -

OL­LIE Glee­son still re­mem­bers the day he was asked to give the an­swer to a maths question in class — and al­though he knew the so­lu­tion, he couldn’t say the word, due to a crip­pling speech im­ped­i­ment. The letter ‘h’ was of­ten im­pos­si­ble for him to say and he could not ut­ter the word ‘hun­dred’.

Af­ter what seemed like an eter­nity, un­der the crit­i­cal gaze of his class­mates, he came up with a way round the prob­lem. “One, zero, zero,” he said, be­fore sit­ting down.

It was one of the tough­est mo­ments of his young life.

“As far as I know, I’ve had a stut­ter for my whole life,” says the 22-year-old Clare man. “It isn’t some­thing that runs in the fam­ily, so I don’t know where I got it from, but it started get­ting re­ally bad when I was a young child and I de­vel­oped a cop­ing mech­a­nism of mak­ing re­ally long sen­tences in or­der to avoid words that I couldn’t say.

“Over the years, my par­ents tried so many dif­fer­ent treat­ments for me, in­clud­ing speech ther­apy, acupunc­ture, cran­iosacral ther­apy and even hyp­no­sis — but none of it worked. It was very dif­fi­cult at school and, of course, I got a fair bit of stick for it.

“That day in my maths class stands out as one of the worst days of my life. Also, I got a job in my lo­cal Mc­Don­ald’s when I was 15 and was put on the ‘drive-thru’, so there were times when the cus­tomer would be sit­ting for up to a minute wait­ing for me to say some­thing as I couldn’t get the words out — it was tough, but there wasn’t any­thing I could do about it.”

Ol­lie, who is the mid­dle child of three, ad­mits to chang­ing his name when he was on hol­i­day or with strangers as his own name was of­ten too dif­fi­cult to pro­nounce — but on one oc­ca­sion, hav­ing to be ‘David’ for an en­tire va­ca­tion saw him own up to his new friends about his con­di­tion, and this was the first step to­wards gain­ing some con­trol over his prob­lem.

“I re­alised that it was prob­a­bly good to let peo­ple know that I had a stut­ter rather than try­ing to hide it, as the stress of that made the whole thing worse,” he says.

“Then, when I was 16, my par­ents signed me up to a course on costal breath­ing in Gal­way, and this was when ev­ery­thing started to change. It was a four-day pro­gramme — we had to get up at 6am and go to bed at 10pm and the en­tire day was spent learn­ing how to breathe and speak as if it was the first time.

“We had to wear a belt on our chests which would de­ter­mine whether or not we were breath­ing prop­erly and had to en­dure some of the tough­est sit­u­a­tions I have ever been through — which in­cluded speak­ing in a re­ally slow, drawn-out fashion to 100 peo­ple on the street, telling 10 strangers each day that I had a stut­ter, and stand­ing on a soap box in the mid­dle of Shop Street and shout­ing out that fact to ev­ery­one pass­ing by.

“It was ab­so­lutely mor­ti­fy­ing and I was so grate­ful that I didn’t know any­one. But it was a means of over­com­ing a huge fear, so it would be like tak­ing some­one who is afraid of heights on to the top of the Em­pire State Build­ing.”

Since this four-day course seven years ago, Ol­lie says he has learnt how to con­front the is­sue and ‘take con­trol of the fear’.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence in Gal­way was pretty em­bar­rass­ing, but it was worth it as it taught me so much,” he says. “I learned how to laugh at my­self and that some peo­ple have it a lot worse than I do. I also re­alised that the best way for­ward was to tell peo­ple that I have a stut­ter rather than des­per­ately try­ing to hide it.

“In fact, when I gave my first pre­sen­ta­tion in col­lege, I be­gan by putting up a photo of

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.