How a young man from Greater Manchester who struggled with a severe stutter for years is using TikTok to inspire others
A young man from Manchester has taken to social media to prove to others that speech impairment shouldn’t be holding you back.
A young man from Manchester has gone viral on social media with videos about refusing to be held back by a stutter.
Faizan Sheikh, from Didsbury, struggled with speech impairment throughout his childhood and only said his own name out loud for the first time when he was 16.
Now, however, the 19-year-old is using video social network TikTok to inspire others in a similar position not to be defined by their struggles with speech.
He also talks openly about other aspects of his life, such as his fear of dogs.
When did Faizan first develop a stutter and what happened to him?
Faizan has lived with a severe stutter since the age of three and has seen many speech therapists.
Unfortunately, the techniques they used didn’t really work for him and it made his childhood and school life extremely difficult.
He said: “When I went to primary school, I had a hard time making friends. I was the kid who didn’t really want to talk much. I couldn’t stay silent all my life. I had to speak at some point.
“When I was speaking, the children took the microphone off my speech. when I was in class and wanted to say something, I pinched my leg to get my words out.
“When it was the school plays, I got the silent part. Only hand movements. They wouldn’t even let me do the narrative parts because of my stutter.
“When I moved to high school, it was extremely difficult because I was bullied a lot. I remember when I was in class and I was stuttering, this guy was dancing to my stutter.
“It was the last straw for me. I dropped out of school and my life was completely changed forever.
Things didn’t improve until Faizan started attending The Starfish Project, a nonprofit organization that runs crash courses for people who have trouble speaking because of severe stuttering.
Faizan said, “I learned this wonderful technique, which helped me get my stutter under control. I was confident enough to stand in front of the room and say my name. I finally did it! I said my name without stuttering.
“After leaving the Starfish course, I held my head high and wanted to do everything I couldn’t do. Since I left this course, I have confidence in myself and it’s incredible.
“Before, I was too scared and thought about people’s judgment to use the phone or talk to people, but now I don’t care what people think and I just like what I want to do.”
Faizan immediately began practicing his newfound confidence, talking on the phone, having conversations with his grandparents, and being able to order food for himself.
What else happened to Faizan during his childhood?
A speech impediment was not the most serious problem Faizan faced during his childhood.
He has lived his entire life with Mosaic Edwards Syndrome, also known as Mosaic Trisomy 18, which means he has an extra copy of a chromosome in some of his cells.
He explained the impact it had on his health as a child.
Faizan said: “When I was born I was a very sick child who had many operations. I struggled in my early days. I had a nasogastric tube inserted into my nose through my esophagus and into my stomach. This would allow me to have my food and my medicine.
“While I was in the hospital, the doctors informed my parents that my life expectancy was reduced. I went to the Francis House Children’s Hospice, for life-threatening children, for respite, but when I was at Francis House, I kept crying and throwing up.
“I had many trips to the hospital, each for a different reason. My parents were with me the whole time.
“Part of my condition, I was struggling to grow. I had to have a growth hormone injection to increase my height. Unfortunately this exacerbated my pre-existing scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
“Due to my condition, I find it difficult to walk long distances as I am tired. I had to be pushed in a wheelchair if I walked long distances. It was an isolating experience. One of the disturbing things a doctor said to my mother was that her son would never win a race.
How did Faizan decide to go public with his stutter and what happened next?
Faizan said his mother initially told him he should consider posting his story on social media and he said he would try.
He has notably found an audience on TikTok and says it is very important to him that other young people who stutter or have similar speech problems see someone talking about it and encourage them not to let it restrict their life.
He said: “The videos worked and started to inspire people and I really enjoyed that. I wanted to get my point across that you shouldn’t try to fit in when you were born to stand out.
“Other people said the videos really helped them too. When I was out in public, people asked me to take a picture with me and people wanted to talk to me.
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“I want people to think that, yes, I have my challenges, but my challenges don’t stop me from achieving my dreams. My stutter is a blessing and a gift.
“I want this journey to continue where I’m doing amazing things. I want to inspire people to use their voice. My message to people is don’t let your stutter or disability define who you are.
“I think it’s so important to raise awareness about disability and stuttering.
Faizan has also used TikTok to discuss other personal issues, such as his fear of dogs, and says those videos have also garnered a fantastic response online.
He was also able to achieve a personal goal at Francis House when he had the opportunity to interview Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford.
What does Faizan want to do next?
Faizan is currently in college and says eventually he wants to work in education to help young people.
He said, “I want to be a teaching assistant. I want to work with children on their dreams and goals and make a difference.