STEVE Simms was fighting for his baby daughter.

He faced a courtroom to gain custody of his little girl.

And each word he uttered was a struggle.

His crippling shyness made matters worse. Steve, 48, is a recovering stutterer.

The affliction began with bad sinuses, and a series of throat infections at five.

The split from his wife had knocked him hard, making it even more difficult to speak.

"He could hardly get a word out," his now wife Barbara said.

Now, Steve can talk underwater.

Barbara remembers the first time she told her hubby to be quiet.

It was 2006. He'd just completed a life-changing course called the McGuire Program.

So excited by the results, Steve blabbered on well into the night.

"It was 2am and he was still talking!" Barbara said.

"She told me to shut up," Steve laughed.

"He never lets me forget that," his wife quipped, reaching for his hand.

Steve had tried other programs before.

At 30, he did Smooth Speech, run by speech pathologists.

"It made me talk funny," Steve drawls in a monotone, a wide grin on his mug.

The focus was on masking the stutter.

The McGuire Program takes a very different tack.

Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is to recognise the problem. And be open about it.

That includes approaching random strangers and speaking to them.

And standing up in public and making speeches.

The purpose: facing the fear.

It's 5.30pm and the Simms have taken their brood to the Coffee Club at the Night Owl Centre in Gladstone.

Steve coughs and then stands up. He looks around, gauging how many onlookers there are.

Then he launches into his spiel.

"Hi I'm Steve and I'm a recovering stutterer…"

Everyone stops. And stares.

Steve speaks for about 30 seconds and then sits down.

It's nerve-racking for someone so shy.

When asked if he gets scared, Steve snorted.

"Shit yeah," he said, revealing his shaking hands.

But it's a good crowd.

Wayne Jater and Matt Stabback have stopped to watch.

The high-vis clad blokes give Steve a round of applause when he's done.

"Good on ya, mate," they chorus.

This is nothing new for Barbara. Just last week Steve took her for lunch at the Yacht Club.

On the way out, he stopped to talk to a table of complete strangers.

"They become adrenaline junkies," she said.

"You need to feel the fear and do it anyway," her hubby added.

Steve was lucky to escape schoolyard bullying. He grew up in a small mining town, where his family was well known.

He realises just how lucky he was.

"I never grew up with that fear of talking."

Steve's imposing stature may have helped stave off bullies.

"I've always been a big boy," Steve said, adding that any teasing was met with no-nonsense approach.

"I'll talk to you with these," he grinned, clenching his fists.

Now, Steve speaks with relative ease.

He works in the workshop at a hire company.

His role requires him to answer the phone, do training and deal with the public on a daily basis.

The fitter used to be able to fly under the radar.

"You can go out and do your job and not talk to anyone all day - that's not unusual."

Gone are those days. Steve is a new man. He's even joined the Gladstone Toastmasters.

"I'm not allowed to be shy anymore."

Steve is looking to start a support group for stutterers in Gladstone. Call him on 0403 831 667 or join his Facebook page Gladstone Stuttering Support Group.

MCGUIRE PROGRAM

Facilitated by recovering stutterers - not trained speech pathologists

Takes a holistic approach

Treats stuttering not so much as a problem with speech

It's more an issue of fear and anxiety, old patterns and triggers from the past

Focuses on breathing techniques

Visit stuttering.com.au

TWO TYPES

Overt stutterer - can't hide their stutter, it's very obvious

Covert stutterer - finds ways to hide stutter by avoiding words, sounds that trip them up etc



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