Therapy encourages stutterer to help others

Alex Todd is keen to raise awareness of stammering which blights the lives of around 66 million people worldwide. Picture: Greg Macvean
Alex Todd is keen to raise awareness of stammering which blights the lives of around 66 million people worldwide. Picture: Greg Macvean
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HIS stutter was once so bad he struggled to say his wedding vows, but now Alex Todd is using his experiences to help others – as a voice coach.

Having reaped the benefits of therapy himself, the father-of-four is now qualified to provide support and guidance to scores of other people living with a stammer.

Retired Alex, 59, is now a trainer with the McGuire Programme, an international network of stammer therapy, which he said has revolutionised lives, including his own.

The treatment – which has been used by famous names such as Scotland rugby international Kelly Brown and Wet Wet Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin – uses a combination of confidence building and breathing exercises.

Mr Todd, from Gorebridge, said: “I’m on the phone list, which is a list of coaches throughout the UK and overseas and anybody who’s on the McGuire Programme can call at any time for some help, advice, practice or anything like that.

“If it’s people from the other end of the UK, then it’s on the phone, but I also meet people face-to-face and I have coached people from Edinburgh and all over Scotland.

“I also go on these four-day intensive courses. It’s good to be coaching as you need to be on your game. As well as 
giving advice and support to other people, it’s good for me and my speech as well.”

The phone support is part of the follow-up therapy for anyone who has undergone the intensive residential course.

Participants are encouraged to speak to as many members of the public as they can, asking for directions or the time, before ultimately standing on a soap box in the middle of a busy street to give a short speech to passers-by.

Anyone who goes on the £800 therapy course gets a lifetime membership – many will attend meetings and groups for the rest of their lives.

Mr Todd, a former psychiatric charge nurse, helps people to overcome anything from high-pressure situations such as job interviews or work presentations, to children at school or simply talking to relatives.

Having stammered for 50 years, Mr Todd is keen to raise awareness of the condition which blights the lives of around 66 million people worldwide.

He said: “Occasionally you get feedback in terms of how they have got on. There have been times when I’ve spoken to someone on the phone and then met them on a course after.

“It helped me massively which is why I wanted to be a coach. When you see the difference afterwards, it really makes it worthwhile.”

Wife Isabel, 56, said Alex has been a “different person” since enrolling in the programme.

She said: “I think he’s enjoying being able to help people. I have seen such a big change in him over the last few years.”

An open day will be held for the McGuire Programme at the John Lewis community room, Little King Street, on 
September 27, from 1.30pm.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com