Student with severe stammer says Joe Biden offers hope for others with condition

Emily Chudy, PA

A student with a severe stammer has described US President Joe Biden as an “inspiration” for opening up about his own speech condition.

Faizan Sheikh, who is studying childcare at The Manchester College, told the PA news agency his stammer was once so bad he could not say his own name.

Mr Sheikh, 18, said: “For 15 years I have lived with a severe stammer. At the age of three I started to stumble on my words.”

He said the condition was so bad he was only able to say his own name without stammering for the first time in 2019.

“It was difficult for me because when I went to school I was this silent child… someone took the mick out of my stammer. I used to cry so much and I wish I didn’t have a stammer.

“I struggled to make any friends, but there were three friends I made and I am still in contact with them now.”

It is estimated that about 1% of people in the UK are affected by stammering, which can be treated through speech and language therapy.

Mr Sheikh, who wants to become a teacher, said he would love to meet Mr Biden after being “mesmerised” by the fact someone with a stammer could become president.

Mr Biden has previously provided inspiration for young people with stammers, with a 13-year-old boy making a speech at the virtual Democratic National Convention in August after the president spoke with him.

Brayden Harrington from New Hampshire said: “Without Joe Biden, I will not be talking to you today.”

He said the Democrat spoke to him about his own stutter at an event, and helped him to feel more “confident”.

Two years ago, Mr Sheikh, from Didsbury, Manchester, attended a course for people who stammer, which provided techniques to aid his speech and breathing.

He now has an Instagram account where he shares his challenges and techniques with more than 1,500 followers.

“I went on a speech course called The Starfish Project in July 2019 in London and Eastbourne… I said my name for the first time without stammering. I was so happy,” he told PA.

“My stammer has improved, I say the Starfish course was the foundation for me.

“I did a speech in front of 300 people and I got a standing ovation.

“My stammer used to scare me, but now I am able to speak to other people and have a proper conversation.”

Mr Sheikh with his mother (Faizan Sheikh/PA)
Mr Sheikh with his mother (Faizan Sheikh/PA)

Mr Biden opened up about his stammer during an election campaign event in February last year.

He said at the event that he “still occasionally” struggles with stammering “when I find myself really tired”.

“It has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient. It has nothing to do with your intellectual make-up,” Mr Biden said.

“You have to break it up, because you get so nervous.”

Mr Sheikh told PA: “I now call my stammer a blessing. And my message to people is that they need to be patient and let people speak and don’t cut them off.”