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Any vocation that requires public speaking will be much harder to undertake for someone with a stammer - but a priest in Northern Ireland has revealed that a speech therapy programme has enabled him to follow his calling by helping him overcome severe vocal impediments.
Father Patrick Lagan, who serves in St Eugene's Cathedral in Londonderry, told BBC News NI that his speech problems as a boy were so bad that "I couldn't say the word chemist". His stammer got progressively worse, to the point where he could not even answer the phone.
Now, however, he is able to deliver sermons and talk to members of the public, thanks to the transformative speech therapy on offer from the McGuire Programme. This is designed to help people control stuttering by focusing on the physiological aspects underlying the problem.
The solutions it provides are centred on breathing patterns and ensuring that the individual breathes and pauses at the right times.
Fr Lurgan stated: "I learned how to accept who I was and then I started going to the classes to learn how [to] breathe and take my time with words.
"You need a lot of patience and self determination, but slowly, but surely you get there. It's important to talk to people, read different books and seek guidance."
His breakthrough moment came when he was able to deliver a reading at leavers' mass from St Patrick's College in the town of Maghera.
"I realised for the first time that I could really do this. It was a big confirmation for me. It transformed my life," he said.
The McGuire Programme runs courses around the world. It was set up in 1994 by Dave McGuire, who at the age of 45 and having suffered with a life-long stammer learned a new technique that resolved the problem.
Known as costal breathing, it is a technique used by a lot of opera singers. It was combined with a technique called 'non-avoidance' by psychologists to develop the programme.
Other elements, such as techniques borrowed from sports psychology, were used to refine the programme.
Written by Martin Lambert
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