A WEYMOUTH man who was bullied for having a stammer aired his love life to the nation in a bid to raise awareness of the condition.
A first date is nerve-wracking enough without millions of viewers watching, but brave Paul Thompson decided to step out of his comfort zone by appearing on the Channel 4 series ‘First Dates’.
Cruel taunts from bullies have sometimes made life difficult for the 32-year-old, but Mr Thompson is determined to never let the condition hold him back.
Hooked audiences watched with bated breath to see if his stammer would get the better of him during his two first dates held at a London restaurant and broadcast over two episodes.
He told the Echo that the nerve-wracking experience boosted his confidence and allowed him to raise awareness of speech impediments. While his stammer got the better of him on one of the dates, Mr Thompson proved a hit with Kathryn who he had a lot in common with.
After spotting an advert for people with stammers to audition on The British Stammering Association’s Facebook page, Mr Thompson was determined to get involved.
He said: “Within ten minutes of applying I had a call and was invited to London for an audition.
“One of the dates went really well and we had so much in common but the other one wasn’t that great. I was really shocked when they invited me back for a second date – it was a real laugh.
“The stammer is worse when I’m nervous or excited and it can differ on a daily basis.
“I’m still in touch with one of the dates. It was an awesome experience.”
He added: “I want people to understand what it is like to have a stammer.”
He spoke about how difficult he found attending secondary school due to the condition. Mr Thompson said: “Youngsters can be really cruel and I was bullied at school because of it – I used to hate going there. Talking in front of class was a real nightmare.”
Since appearing on the show, Mr Thompson has been offered a place in the Starfish Project, which offers effective speech therapy with lifetime support.
He urged others with speech impediments to have the confidence to follow their dreams and not to let stammers or similar conditions hold them back.
Sadly, the dating experience didn’t lead to love but Mr Thompson said he would do it all over again.
Series two of First Dates began this year, with the restaurant doors opening to hopeful singles.
Both episodes featuring Paul can be viewed on 4oD.
ACCORDING to the British Stammering Association, approximately one person in every hundred stammers. A spokesman said: “People stammer in different ways so that the term ‘stammering’ covers a wide range of behaviours.
“One person may get blocked or stuck on a certain word or sound, another may repeat sounds, another may go back in speech and take a run at the difficult word, and yet another may do all of these things and many more.
“There are some people who fear stammering openly, and as a result, have lots of ‘tricks’ to avoid stammering.” Stammering usually starts in early childhood around the age of three and a half years.
Unfortunately there is no cure but there are a variety of therapy courses on offer.