Kirby Cane nanny to appear in BBC documentary on stammering with Gareth Gates

WHEN she chose to speak many did not realise that she had a stammer.

By carefully choosing what she said and by avoiding certain situations, she was able to keep it hidden for 20 years.

But after signing up for a radical speech therapy course, Sarah Webster, of Kirby Cane, is no longer letting her stammer hold her back.

Instead Sarah, 25, is finally taking steps to fulfil her dream of becoming a primary school teacher, after finding her confidence through the McGuire Programme.

Sarah has had a stammering problem since she was five years old, but she tried hard to hide it from others.

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'People did not know I had a stammer,' she said. 'I was a covert, so that means I did my best to hide it and avoid situations and certain sounds.'

She would deliberately avoid certain words and not say her name, which she struggled with the most. She would also often choose to stay in or not say a lot when she went out.

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'I was not bullied as such, it was just tiring to skirt around all the words. I could not say what I wanted to say,' she said.

'I'd act stupid and sometimes pretend I didn't know something so that someone would say that word for me. On the phone I'd often say the signal was bad and hang up.'

The former St Felix, in Reydon, Norwich University College of the Arts and Canterbury graduate said that she had elocution lessons when she younger but it was only after graduation when she had to go out in the 'real world' and make lots of phone calls that the problem became more of an issue.

Sarah, who is a nanny and an artist, is part of a support group in Norwich and was selected to take part in an intensive five day course in Birmingham in October under the instruction of pop star Gareth Gates.

Gareth has benefited from the programme, which focusing on breathing techniques, and filmed a special documentary for BBC Three of him helping a group with stammers.

Sarah said: 'They touch on not just the physical side of how to control your stammer but the psychology of it.

'Their aim is eloquence and control. Fluent speakers think fluency is the goal to successes but we are told not to compete with others but to compete with yourself.'

She added: 'That involves breathing from the costal diaphragm, pausing, and speaking a lot less words per breath, until you build up the foundations and can speak more. It is a mindset change.'

The programme challenged her to do activities she would never normally do, including introducing herself to 100 people on the street and doing a public speech.

'Since being on the McGuire programme I am pushing out my comfort zones. I'm doing things I fear rather than moving away from them, for example I'm in the midst of teacher training interviews,' she said.

'Now I am determined I can achieve my dream of becoming a primary school teacher, rather than ruling out teaching as a profession because of my stammer.'

But there is still work to be done as she speaks to the coaches regularly and has to do a daily 20 minute warm up.

She said: 'I hope this will not only cast light on life for people with a stammer so that people are more aware but also I really hope this will help someone else out there and give them hope and courage.'

Stop My Stutter is on BBC Three on Monday at 9pm.

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