A woman who once struggled to speak has found her confidence – along with her voice.
Joanna Wagstaff, 25, has a stutter that was once so severe that she refused to talk in public.
Now she is living life to the full after improving her speech impediment thanks to a pioneering learning programme made popular by Pop Idol star Gareth Gates.
The McGuire Programme aims to transform people who stutter into ‘articulate, well spoken people’ by offering advice and training from former stutterers themselves.
Joanna, who lives on Coniston Road, South Shore, said: “I have had a stutter all my life. I tried speech therapy but it just didn’t work for me.
“So when I read an interview with Gareth Gates and he mentioned the McGuire Programme, I thought ‘right, let’s go for it.”
The nursery nurse embarked on a course with the programme in Manchester last year, and since then, has seen her life transformed.
She said: “I had no confidence before. I couldn’t speak at school or in meetings, I couldn’t use the phone or talk to strangers. If I had to buy a train or a bus ticket I’d get my friends to do it for me. I was extremely quiet.
“Now my life has improved so much since taking the course.
“The techniques they taught us was nothing like speech therapy.
“The main difference was we were taught by people who have stutters and so they understand. With the NHS I was being taught by people who had never experienced that before.
“I can now talk to strangers, order my own food and phone for my own taxis and do all the things that other people take for granted.
“My name is still a bit of a struggle to say, but sounds like B, T and E have got much easier.
“Some people see having a stutter as a disability, but I don’t see it that way.
“If I can improve then anyone can. I hope that by putting my story out there I can reach other people with stutters and give them hope.”