Richards Stephens beats stammer to be speech therapist
A man who has lived with a stammer since the age of three has graduated after qualifying as a speech and language therapist.
Richards Stephens, 37, from Bury, said he could not say his own name as a child and "wouldn't speak up in class".
He decided to train as a speech therapist after his confidence was boosted through his work as a psychiatric nurse and a support group.
He graduated at the University of Manchester with first-class honours.
"Instead of going out at night, I've been reading journals," he told BBC Radio Manchester.
"Now I have a mild stammer but as a child it was very strong. I could never be fluent in a sentence so it was on your mind constantly.
"You fear talking, you fear being put in a social situation - it's a struggle because you know the words are there, it's just they won't come out for whatever reason," Mr Stephens said.
Treated by a speech and language therapist from the age of seven, he said therapy failed to deal with his psychological and social problems.
"Stammering used to dominate all of my life choices. I first chose to study IT as an undergraduate at Liverpool John Moores because I thought I wouldn't have to talk much and could communicate via e-mail.
"In restaurants I'd order dishes which were easier for me to pronounce and not the ones I really wanted."
He gained confidence in his early 30s after attending a support group set up by the British Stammering Association and said his voluntary work at American summer camps for children who stammer had been a "revelation".
"I want to help better understand this speech disorder, not only for myself, but for the benefit of the millions of people who stammer worldwide.
"The stammer is only a small part of what we train in because we also train in how to work with people who have had strokes, language problems and delays."
- Stammering - sometimes referred to as stuttering - commonly occurs in early childhood when speech and language skills are developing rapidly
- It can also occur in older children and adults after an injury, illness or trauma
- It is not possible to say for sure why a particular child starts stammering, but it is not caused by anything the parents have done
- Stammering is more common in boys than girls
- It is important to get referred to a specialist as soon as possible
- Famous people who have had a stammer include King George VI, former politician Ed Balls and singer Gareth Gates