Niall Phelan has been raising awareness online and on the streets
The original post appeared in galwaybeo: https://www.galwaybeo.ie/news/galway-news/ambitious-co-galway-man-shares-8876004
A Ballinasloe man has shared his ‘frustrating experience’ of living with a stutter in the hopes of raising awareness of the struggles that people with verbal difficulties face.
Niall Phelan, a 21-year-old from the east Galway town, has had verbal difficulties as long as he can remember.
Stuttering affects people of all ages. It occurs most often in children between the ages of two and six as they are developing their language skills.
Approximately 5 to 10 percent of all children will stutter for some period in their lives, lasting from a few weeks to several years. It’s estimated that around 1 in 100 people will stutter most if not all of their lives.
“Frustration is there. Other feelings like guilt and embarrassment come up a lot. ‘Why can’t I say this? Will this person judge me if they find out about my stammer? How can I avoid speaking?’” he said.
“It can be extremely annoying when trying to socialise. You want to go up to someone and have a laugh, but you just can’t. Often times you end up coming off as ‘too shy’ or ‘awkwardly quiet’.”
“As far as I know I started speech and therapy at around 4 years old. I never really understood what it was, or why I was doing it. It wasn’t until I was about 10/11 that I fully noticed that I was a person of verbal difference,” he explained.
Things only began to get harder for Niall as he reached his teenage years and began to experience bullying at school.
“Especially in secondary school lads would come up and say ‘What’s your name’, to be funny knowing that I couldn’t say it. School was difficult in other ways too. At the start of each year, I’d always sit at the front, so I wouldn’t have to project my voice,” he said.
“When the teacher would go around asking names, I’d struggle. This caused a lot of confidence problems at that time.”
“You’d constantly have to pre-empt situations to make them easier. ‘Will I have to speak out loud today? How am I going to say “here” during attendance?’” he explained.
“For example, if I struggled with the letter “M” I’d never say Maths, I’d always have to find a way to refer to it without actually saying it. The school did a poor job of accommodating my stammer. Most teachers were lovely about it, but I never felt support in regards to dealing with bullying.”
Over 73,000 children are currently on waiting lists for similar treatments to what Niall received. This list includes physiotherapy, psychology, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy services across the country..
Almost half of those on waitlists, 44%, require appointments with speech and language therapists.
Niall speaking to occupational therapy students
Niall has been taking part in the McGuire Programme, a worldwide stammering organisation run by other stammerers who have done the course themselves.
While there are several high-profile stammerers who have shared their experiences including actors like Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, as well as US President Joe Biden, Niall mostly looks up to the programme’s coaches.
“Knowing that they’ve done the same course as me is inspiring. To raise awareness about stammering I spoke to third-year occupational therapists at the University of Galway recently. I’ve also spoken about a little bit on social media”.
Niall says that the best advice he can give to fellow stammerers is to put themselves out there and embrace leaving their comfort zone.
The original post appeared in https://www.galwaybeo.ie: https://www.galwaybeo.ie/news/galway-news/ambitious-co-galway-man-shares-8876004
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