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Alexandra Russo

    Alexandra Russo

    Fairfield, CT
    M.S. Speech Language Pathology
    Sacred Heart University

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I am a full-time, second year speech language pathology (SLP) graduate student. I conducted teletherapy with adults who have aphasia in Spring 2021. I also participated in a fluency (stuttering) workshop this past summer. Currently, I am doing my student teaching at a special education preschool and I work with children who have autism. I am an ambassador for my school and a peer mentor to first year SLP graduate students. I have participated in research for the physical therapy and speech language pathology programs. I volunteer and do extracurriculars in my program as much as I can to build my résumé and stay active. For example, I volunteered to participate in a dysphasia (swallowing) workshop for a day this past summer and got to practice using the scope on a robot patient.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    The most challenging part of being a full-time graduate student who stutters is sounding professional and fluent simultaneously. Formal presentations, oral participation and recounting of information in front of my professors and peers is stressful as is but even more stressful for a person who stutters because you have to think about the information you will be saying as well as being fluent. It’s a very professional setting in graduate school and trying to sound formal paired with fluency is difficult but rewarding when you succeed. Thus far, I have worked and practiced very hard with my speaking to sound the best that I can as a person who stutters. Of course, having stuttering-like disfluencies is inevitable; even having normal disfluencies will be present. However, I always keep lifting my head up high and strive to do better the next time.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    I plan to specialize in fluency down the road as a certified SLP. What that means is if someone wants therapy just for stuttering, my name will pop up if they search an SLP who specizlies in it. I also plan to work in both the medical and educational setting as well.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    Before graduate school, even in undergraduate, I tried to forget about my stutter; I pushed it to the back of my mind. I felt ashamed of it all my life. It wasn’t until graduate school and being in the professional setting and learning in depth about my impairment, along with other speech-language disorders, that I began to come to terms with my stutter and started to look at it as a strength. I started this journey of acceptance and slowly decreased my avoidance behaviors. I told my class that I had a fluency disorder in my first year of graduate school and since then my journey has only improved. I reached out to my past SLP I had in elementary school, began to be more open about my stutter, actally had fluency therapy with a SLP I can proudly call a friend now, joined a stuttering support group and started to advocate for myself. For example, I try to let professors know about my stutter and ask if I can go first when doing presentations. This allows me to avoid the anxiety, that might heightened my stutter, that waiting to present brings.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    My proudest moment would be when I completed a very difficult case study presentation for my Autism class this semester. We had to present a case study on a client we work with in the school system in under five minutes. I practiced a lot in advance and asked my professor if I could go first (advocating is key for me). I did really well in orally presenting the information in a timely manner and received an A for the project.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    Stuttering creates a sense of having a non-judgemental mentality and provides me with an immense amount of patience, especially with my clients. It also generalizes to life; to not assume or overthink when someone is different in either the way they speak, look or think. Someone may not have control in certain aspects of their life and with stuttering, I have realized that.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    My first advice to people would be to have courage, be brave and not compare yourself to others. However, bravery and willingness arrive at different times for people who stutter. I just started my journey a year ago so it took me a while to finally start living with my stutter instead of avoiding it. Everyone has different journeys and periods in their life when they are ready to face their stutter head on. I would tell everyone in NSA, my future clients and honestly my younger self, that they will know when their time has arrived to start progressing in their journey, and in the meantime, there are support groups and social media pages they can always turn too. But I know personally, the emotional trauma stuttering brings. Unfortunately no matter who you talk or turn to, that trauma will linger. So my second advice would be is to find positive outlets to obscure the emotional impact stuttering brings on a daily basis.