Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the three brave men who broke the silence and conquered their stutter for their family

These three men share their journey with Take 5.
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Denis Wright, 29, Camden, NSW

My heart was racing as I sat in front of the boss.

“Hi, I’m D-D-Denis,” I managed.

At 21, I’d finished my uni degree in computer engineering and was trying to find a job.

There was just one problem – I’d had a lifelong stutter that had grown so bad that I couldn’t even say my name to introduce myself to prospective employers.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t make a good impression and struggled to find work.

“Don’t give up,” my partner, Alex, urged.

We’d gone to high school together and her love had kept me strong when things were challenging.

At school, I’d often been given exceptions so I didn’t have to do things like public speaking.

But the real world was different and if I wanted to find a job, I had to do something about it.

With my partner, Alex.

(Image: supplied)

That’s how I discovered The McGuire Programme, where I spent four full days working on everything from breathing through to speaking techniques.

I was amazed when my stutter started to slow down.

But the best news of all was finding a job just two weeks later!

“I knew you could do it,” Alex said.

After years of feeling nervous, I finally had the confidence to be myself.

So one of the first things I did was take Alex to the ice-skating rink where we’d had our first date.

As our favourite singer, Bruno Mars, was playing, I pulled her in close.

“Will you marry me?” I asked.

“Yes!” she squealed.

On our wedding day.

(Image: supplied)

Ankur Kohar, 37, Sydney, NSW

My lower lip quivered, as the kids in the class sniggered seeing me struggle to answer the teacher’s question.

At five years old and growing up in India, I knew I was different – everyone reminded me of it every day.

I had a horrendous stutter that got worse when I was nervous, and with constant ridicule, I was full of anxiety.

Eventually, I became too scared to speak.

I was lonely until I reached adulthood and met Seema.

We were arranged to be married, but I worried I wouldn’t be considered a worthy suitor.

My parents didn’t tell Seema’s family about my stutter.

Yet, when I first spoke to Seema, I got through an entire conversation stutter-free.

She had no idea.

Me in The McGuire Programme.

(Image: supplied)

It was a month later when we went for dinner that I confessed.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked.

“I wanted you to love me for me and not just see my stutter,” I explained.

Seema gave me the courage to conquer my fear of speaking, which had imprisoned me for so long.

After we married, she asked me what I really wanted to do.

“I want to be able to communicate, study and get a job,” I replied.

She found me a speech therapist so I could talk clearly enough to pass an English exam to study in Australia.

Moving to Sydney, I got a Masters degree in mathematics and statistics and also became a father to Ananya, now six.

But my stutter remained, and made getting a job impossible.

Then, Seema discovered The McGuire Programme and, tentatively, I enrolled.

Our coaches taught us a mantra to pause, breathe and speak in short five-word sentences.

It was so simple yet effective and finishing the course, my confidence soared.

With my family.

(Image: supplied)

I was no longer imprisoned by my voice – my speech was flawless.

Now, I’m studying for my PHD and practise my speech techniques so as not to regress.

I’ve recently become a father again, too – Anaisha is now six months old.

The gift of speech has changed my life.

I know now that I can achieve anything and make my family proud.

Ratu Clarke, 50, Byron Bay, NSW

In my best American accent, I belted out my speech in my high school’s play of West Side Story.

I was in my late teens and on stage I shone. I felt confident, happy … normal!

Yet, backstage, as my mates congratulated me on my performance, I could barely get the words out to thank them.

I’d developed a stutter as a toddler and it’d gotten worse.

I was only stutter-free when I was acting or playing the funny guy with mates.

But I wanted it gone when I was being ‘me’ too!

“You can either feel sorry for yourself or get on with it,” my parents said.

It was firm but fair advice, and I went for option two.

Growing up, I attempted everything to string a full sentence together: hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming, speech therapy, herbal remedies even voodoo doctors.

Everything failed and it was hard to get to a job, but I fell into the music industry as an events and gigs manager and thrived.

My struggles made me strive harder but being unable to a chat over a beer with my mates drove me bonkers.

They saw a snippet on TV about a course called The McGuire Programme to help stutterers.

“You should sign up,” one friend suggested.

Aged 28, I embarked on the four-day course.

I’ve come so far.

(Image: supplied)

We were taught techniques to speak clearly, and even took to the streets to test our speech out on members of the public.

In under a week, I graduated stutter-free.

“It’s too good to be true,” I said to my friends, effortlessly holding a conversation.

Yet my ego got the better of me.

Despite all that I’d been taught, I didn’t keep up the crucial speech drills.

Within six months, I’d regressed.

Anger, frustration and depression consumed me and as time passed, my stutter returned worse than ever.

But I was too proud to seek help.

It took me 12 years to re-enrol on the McGuire course.

I’m so thankful I did.

Now, I’ve just turned 50, and I became a coach two years ago.

I’ve helped countless people conquer their stutters.

It feels great knowing I’ve used my experience to change the lives of others.

*Stutter School can be viewed on SBS On Demand

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