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Simon is no longer lost for words

Feature on Simon Bunnell, who has suffered from a stammer for 25 years.  PIC BY ROB LOCK
26-2-2014

Feature on Simon Bunnell, who has suffered from a stammer for 25 years. PIC BY ROB LOCK 26-2-2014

He couldn’t get the words ‘Strawberry Gardens’ out when he was trying to tell the bus conductor where he wanted to get off.

Instead, Simon Bunnell, who has struggled with a stutter all his life, would say ‘top of the town’ which was three or four stops further on, and pay more just to avoid having to say it.

Simon, of Dronsfield Road, cannot remember not having the speech problem.

His mum says he stuttered almost from when he started talking and for 25 years the debilitating condition encompassed every waking moment of his life.

That was until 10 years ago when Simon, now 35, found out about a therapy course called the Maguire Programme which uses breathing techniques to counteract the struggle to get the words out.

It was developed by a man called Dave Maguire, himself a sufferer, and uses the costal breathing method, used by many opera singers, as well as other psychological approaches.

The course has changed Simon’s life almost beyond recognition and he wants fellow sufferers to know about it.

“I don’t know why I stuttered and they don’t know what causes it,” said Simon. “I can’t really remember anything that triggered it. People only see the tip of the iceberg, which is the stuttering, but they don’t see what’s underneath, it’s horrible.

“The programme has given me techniques to control my breathing and I have to practice them every day.

“There’s a whole bank of support, you can repeat the course whenever you feel you need to and there’s a network of people you can call on the phone, people who have also been through the same and help you. It’s changed my life.”

Simon saw a speech therapist when he was younger, and a specialist in Hammersmith, but nothing worked.

The turning point was his sister’s wedding day.

He said: “My dad had fallen ill and my sister asked me if I would step in, walk her down the aisle and give her away.

“She told me that I didn’t have to do a speech, but I felt as if I needed to do it. I had lots to drink – the groom did his bit, then the best man, then it was my turn. I didn’t look up once, I just stared down. It was terrible, I stuttered all the way through and when I finally did look up, people were crying.

“Everyone felt sorry for me, it was really upsetting.

“There was always negative thoughts before I tried to speak, I knew I would stutter. You knew people would be looking and so I just used to avoid everything. The course teaches you how to overcome that.”

Simon, who works as an inspector on offshore rigs, spends 30 mins every morning doing breathing exercises.

Now he feels like he’s at the stage where he could become a therapist himself.

“I recently went to a course which was being held in Cardiff and I did a speech in front of 50 people. I never thought I’d ever be able to do that,” said Simon. “I just want to be able to speak eloquently, and if I can just help one person overcome it, brilliant.”

Simon, who has two children, is hoping to be able to give talks in schools and help children who are struggling.

As for asking to get off at the Strawberry Gardens, those days are a thing of the past.

He said: “My mum and sister were driving home with me after the first course.

“We were on the bus route and there was a bus. I told them to stop – there was something I needed to do.

“I just said it ‘ Strawberry please’ then I burst into tears.

“I don’t know what the conductor must have thought.

“I ran to the back of the bus and gave my mum and sister the thumbs up. I’d done it.”

Visit www.mcguireprogramme.com for more details.

 
 
 

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