The Leeds man speaking freely after life-changing course

Michael Batley, 31, from Woodlesford.
Michael Batley, 31, from Woodlesford.
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Michael Batley is preparing to make the most important speech of his life – at his wedding.

But a few years ago the 31-year-old was struggling to even say his name.

He’d suffered from such a debilitating stammer that he changed his life to avoid situations where he might have to speak, avoiding using the phone and even walking everywhere so he wouldn’t have to get on a bus.

But when, as a university student, he was given the stark warning that he was likely to fail his nursing course, he decided to take action.

And now thanks to a therapy programme, he has a successful career and is writing his wedding speech.

Michael, from Woodlesford, Leeds, has stammered for as long as he can remember.

“It held me back,” he said. “Talking on the phone was incredibly difficult. I dreaded being called out in assembly or having to read aloud.”

The problem affected his ability to fulfil his potential at school, because he couldn’t manage an oral exam in his French GCSE and got a U grade instead of the predicted A.

When he started part-time jobs as a teenager, he would restrict himself to roles where he didn’t have to talk much, and if he had to make a phone call, he would get one of his brothers to impersonate him.

His stammer even meant people didn’t get to see his true personality, he said: “I was frustrated, angry and emotional. It just made life quite hard.”

At the age of 25, he was forced to confront the issue.

He said: “I was a mental health nursing student and I was told by my mentor that I would fail, it would hold me back and I would not make a particularly good nurse.”

It was hard to hear, but it prompted him to take action and after seeing it on TV, he signed up for the McGuire Programme.

He underwent a four-day course and the programme is a lifelong commitment with daily exercises and a focus on public speaking.

The results have been brilliant, with him now having control over his speech and feeling much more confident. The programme teaches techniques to overcome difficult words.

Now Michael works as a mental health nurse at the Newsam Centre in Leeds, a role which he says challenges him every day as he has to talk to a range of people.

He has also trained as a peer supporter for others undergoing the programme, and wants to encourage others affected.

And in May, he is set for his biggest challenge yet as he gives a speech at his wedding to fiancée Alice Tindall - something he says he would not have been able to do before.

“I can’t wait,” he said.

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