A teenager overcame his lifelong stammer to achieve his dream of saying his own name for the first time aged 15 – and then interviewing Marcus Rashford.
Faizan Sheikh, 18, has struggled with a stammer since he was three years old and was relentlessly bulled at school.
But he bravely tackled his impediment through therapy and courses and eventually was able to say his own name aged 15.
The teen from Didsbury, Manchester, didn’t stop there – and started to record his battles on social media, in an incredible video diary that charts his progress.
He eventually got to meet his idol Marcus Rashford and a moving clip shows the star patiently being interviewed by star struck Faizan.
Now he has given speeches and spoken on the radio – and is working towards his next goal of explaining his disability to his infant cousins
Faizan said: “I was this person that was really quiet – I didn’t have a voice – so I want to show people that I do have a voice and I can speak out.
“Knowing that I couldn’t speak and knowing I couldn’t say my own name was really difficult.
“When I used to go out people would ask me for my name and in my mind I was thinking, ‘you know what, I’m going to avoid this and just tell my mum to say my name for me’.
“I think this stammer is a blessing. Yes I get challenges but I get through them.
“If my mindset is negative then my speech will be bad.”
Faizan has struggled with his speech since he was very young, which led to relentless bullying that forced him to change schools and then drop out entirely in 2019.
He said: “I couldn’t string a sentence and I was slurring on my words.”
His tormentors would kick footballs at him, beat him up and “dance” whilst he struggled to say any word beginning with S.
His speech impediment would make seemingly simple tasks a nightmare – even just ordering food or joining in a conversation with his family.
People would hang up on him before he’d finished a sentence when trying to speak on the phone – and clips in his diary document this ordeal.
Faizan said: “I found it difficult to make phone calls and I used to get people turning the phone off and that would put me down it would knock me off my mountain.
“If I was speaking and ordering I would just point to what I want or I would say the easiest thing on the menu, I wouldn’t order what I would really, really want.”
He attended speech therapy but it was unsuccessful until he undertook a three-day intensive course with The Starfish Project in Eastbourne, London in July 2019.
This taught him new breathing techniques that gave him more vocal control, and he was able so say his name for the first time aged 15 – a moment that brought his teachers and other participants to tears.
Faizan started to document his speech journey on Instagram with regular video diaries, as well as offering tips for his followers who were also trying to overcome a stammer.
He said: “I use social media to promote what I do on my day-to-day basis with my speech, for example, I’ll post phone calls, I’ll post me ordering food at a restaurant, and sometimes I post videos where I do daily reviews about my speech.
“I feel more confident talking about my stammer when I’m on social media.
“It’s really helped me progress because I can see how far I’ve come and I can see from day one of my speech journey I can see how much I’ve improved.”
He did a speech for a talent show in front of 300 people and spoke on local radio about his stammering journey.
In late 2019, Faizan got to achieve his dream – to interview a footballer from his favourite team Manchester United.
Footballer Marcus Rashford visited Francis House Children’s Hospice and Faizan plucked up the courage to speak to him.
He said: “Meeting Marcus Rashford, basically, it was a dream come true.
“I was so nervous meeting him but he is a very nice guy very caring.
“The way put his hand on my shoulder to comfort me and to take the anxiety off really helped me.”
Last year he opened up online about the difficulties of wearing a face mask with a stammer as it makes it harder for people to hear and understand him, as well as interfering with his breathing techniques.
Faizan is currently studying for a diploma in childcare at The Manchester College and hopes to work with disabled children in the future.
He said: “I want someone to say to me ‘oh my gosh you have just changed my child’s life’ because that would make me feel very happy – that is my motivation.
“I believe everyone has a voice and everyone has a story to tell.”