A former Huddersfield University student who has learned how to control his stammer is helping fellow stutterers to find their words.
Now Gambian-born Mustapha Cham, 26, is to appear in a TV documentary about his role as a coach with the McGuire Programme, a worldwide programme which helps people who struggle with stammering. The 90-minute programme, School for Stammerers, will be screened at 9pm on Tuesday (Jan 9) on ITV1.
Mustapha, who came to live in Britain in 2004 when he was 12 years old, said: “I have been on the programme nearly four years. I started in 2014 when I was at college. I joined because I had interviews for my placement year. There were certain interviews I didn’t attend just because of my stammer.
“I finally got a place working in the engineering sector, where you have to communicate well. That’s when I looked into the McGuire Programme. It’s a programme run by stutterers themselves for people who stammer.
“It’s a four day course where they teach you various techniques on how to control your speech – such as how to maintain eye contact with people, breathing techniques and allowing yourself to show people that you stutter.”
Mustapha said: “I’ve had a stutter since I was a kid in Gambia. I had good days and bad days. When I needed to be fluent the most was when it ‘did me over’. It was the small things like telling people your name – that’s one of the hardest things.”
Said Mustapha: “We stutter because we try not to. The harder we try, the worse it gets.”
Mustapha has been a McGuire coach since 2015 and works with a number of students who have joined the course and were in the same position as him. “The programme focuses on after-care,” he said. “Once you become a programme member, you get lifetime support.”
It means Mustapha, who lived in Huddersfield for five years and works as a design engineer with valve firm Kent Introl in Brighouse, is just a phone call away if any of his students need to talk to him for advice or support.
“Luckily, my company don’t mind me picking up the phone for a couple of minutes to help someone who may be struggling at work with their speech,” he said. “Before joining the programme, I didn’t like using the phone and would rather send a message than make a phone call. One of the things the programme teaches is how to use the phone and keep in control of your speech.”
The programme also encourages people to go out and talk to strangers – to overcome their lack of confidence. “Once you’ve spoken to the first four or five people you realise people are really nice – as long as you speak to them with respect.”
Mustapha has also won prizes for public speaking with Toastmasters, a worldwide organisation that helps members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills
Mustapha, who now lives in Leeds. knows conquering your stammer is not about curing it. “You will always have a stammer, but it’s about how to control it. It is also about accepting yourself for who you are. You may not be fluent, but you can be an eloquent speaker.”