I learned Sign Language to avoid speaking!

A woman looking at the camera and smiling

Laura Logan tells us about the lengths she used to go to in order to appear fluent, and what helped her to face her fears.

Laura Logan is my name and I'm now not afraid (and able) to say that. I've stammered my whole life and had a troublesome time with any speaking situation growing up. Throughout school and university, I felt it held me back and prevented me from doing so many things in life. I couldn't say my name at times or answer the phone. It was affecting my self-confidence and I was at an all-time low.

I wasn't aware I had a stammer until I was 8. I used to volunteer to read aloud in class, loved being the leading role in school plays and was very outgoing. That was until a few times when I was reading aloud and I stumbled and blocked on words and sounds. Some other children laughed and that's when I knew I was different to my peers.

A few years on and I used to feel sick before any lesson that I knew I may be asked to read or answer a question in. I'd pretend I couldn't read or that I hadn't heard the teacher. My life was so stressful and I felt like I was in a constant state of panic, which made my time at school quite traumatic. I reached fever pitch in my life and even began learning sign language to avoid having to talk again.

I was so consumed by fear I would freeze and no sound would come out.

This was a half-life and I knew deep down something had to change. I was covert, I was quite good at hiding my stammer in most situations but it was very stressful. I would try and avoid situations where I might stammer, substituting words and sounds, and if I had to answer the phone, repeat myself or read aloud. I was so consumed by fear I would freeze and no sound would come out.

The turning point

My life changed in 2019 when I decided to do something about my fear of talking. I discovered and joined The McGuire Programme, an intensive course  run by people who stammer, and after learning the tools and techniques, I became a certified primary coach on the programme.

 I've done things I never thought possible before.

Three years on and I've not looked back. I've done things I never thought possible before: presenting at a conference, public speaking in cities across the UK, attending client calls at work and giving daily department briefings. I've even set up my own YouTube channel, 'The Barefoot Eventer', where I make and post vlogs about horse riding, which is something I've always wanted to do.

The techniques I've learnt have enabled me to move from being uncommunicative, hiding behind sign language, making excuses and avoiding speaking to new people or using a phone at all costs; to now seeking out speaking situations to push further out of my comfort zone, raise awareness about stammering and help, inspire and motivate as many people as I can.

It's not just about learning to overcome your fear of stammering, it's about positively improving your mental well-being — hiding from the everyday world was exhausting, stressful and awful. I'm so thankful that's all changed now. I'm so lucky to have a stammer and my next speech challenge is a radio interview, I think!

The McGuire Programme is one of a number of courses for people who stammer. Read all about the range of options available in our Adult Stammering Therapy & Courses section.

Read more Your Voice articles from people who stammer and their allies. Would you like to write something? See Submit Something For The Site or email editor@stamma.org for details.

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Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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