A young Manchester man has gone viral on social media with videos about refusing to be held back by having a stammer.
Faizan Sheikh, from Didsbury, struggled throughout his childhood with the speech impendiment and only said his own name out loud for the first time aged 16.
Now, though, the 19-year-old uses video-based social network TikTok to inspire other people 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 having a severe fear of dogs.
When did Faizan first develop a stammer and what happened to him?
Faizan has lived with a severe stammer since the age of three and went to numerous speech therapists.
Unfortunately the techniques they used failed to really work for him and that made his childhood and life at school extremely difficult.
He said: “When I went to primary school, I struggled to make friends. I was the kid who didn’t really want to speak much. I couldn’t stay silent all my life. I had to speak at one point.
“When I did speak the kids would take the mick out of my speech. when I would be in class and I would want to say something, I would pinch my leg to get my words out.
“When it would be the school plays, I would get the silent part. Only hand movements. They didn’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 getting bullied a lot. I remember when I was in class, and I was stammering, this guy danced to my stammer.
“That was the last straw for me. I dropped out of school and then my life totally changed forever.”
Things only improved when Faizan started going to The Starfish Project, a not-for-profit organisation which runs intensive courses for people struggling to speak because of serious stammers.
Faizan said: “ I got taught this wonderful technique, which helped me gain control of my stammer. I was confident enough to stand at the front of the room to say my name. I finally did it! I said my name without stammering.
“After I left the Starfish course, I kept my head held high and I wanted to do everything that I couldn’t do. Since leaving that course I’ve had confidence in myself and it has been amazing.
“Before I was too afraid and would be thinking about people’s judgement to use the phone or speak to people, but now I don’t care about what people think and I just enjoy what I want to do.”
Faizan immediately started to put his newfound confidence into practice, speaking 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 issue 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 this had on his health as a child.
Faizan said: “When I was born, I was a very sick child who had numerous operations. I struggled in my early days. I had a naso-gastric tube inserted into my nose through down through my oesophagus and into my stomach. This would allow me to have my feeds and medication.
“While I was in hospital, the doctors advised my parents that I had a shortened life expectancy. I went to Francis House Children’s Hospice, for children with life-threatening conditions, for respite but when I was in Francis House I kept on crying and throwing up.
“I had many trips to the hospital, each for a different reason. My parents were with me all the way.
“Part of my condition I was struggling to grow. I had to have a growth hormone injection to increase my height. Unfortunately, it exacerbated my prexisting scoliosis (curvature of spine)
“Due to my condition, I struggle to walk long distances as I get tired. I had to be pushed in a wheelchair if I was going long distances. This was an isolating experience. One of the disturbing things a doctor said to my mum was that her son would never win a race.”
How did Faizan decide to go public about his stammer and what happened after that?
Faizan said his mum originally said to him that he should consider putting his story on social media and he said he would give it a go.
He has particularly found an audience on TikTok and says it is very important to him that other young people with stammers or similar speech issues to see someone speaking about it and encouraging them not to let it restrict their lives.
He said: “The videos worked and started inspiring people and I really enjoyed that. I wanted to get my message out there that you shouldn’t try to fit in when you were born to stand out.
“Other people have said that the videos really help them as well. When I’ve been out in public I’ve had people ask to take a photo with me and people want to speak to me.
“I want people to think that, yes, I have my challenges, but my challenges don’t stop me from achieving my dreams. My stammer is a blessing and a gift.
“I want this journey to continue where I do amazing things. I want to inspire people to use their voice. My message to people is don’t let your stammer or disability define who you are.
“ I feel like it’s so important to raise awareness about disability and stammering.”
Faizan has also been using TikTok to discuss other personal issues, such as his fear of dogs, and says those videos have got a fantastic reaction online as well.
What does Faizan want to do next?
Faizan is currently at college and says ultimately 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.”