National Stuttering Association

Heather McLeodPilates Instructor

    Heather McLeod

    Austin, TX
    Pilates Instructor
    Sharp Pilates

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I teach private Pilates lessons to clients, as well as small group classes (2-3 people). The type of Pilates I teach uses a particular system of exercises to build a strong core, which supports a more flexible spine, better posture, balance, and alignment. It’s great for rehabbing injuries, strengthening a weak part of the body, or just building more strength, awareness, and flexibility in general.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    Verbally instructing people and talking non-stop is challenging with a stutter. The good thing about the job is that I’m so “in the moment” with the client that I can’t overthink the words I’m saying as much as I might normally. Lately I’ve been struggling with “S” words, which is difficult because I often need to cue people to “squeeze” their sitting bones, etc.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    I’m a new Pilates teacher, so my aspirations at the moment are just to get better as a teacher, and to soak in the joy of helping my clients get stronger and healthier. There’s truly nothing better than that. I love the studio where I work, and my boss has been incredibly supportive. We may expand at some point, or I may someday open a home studio, but right now I’m very happy where I am.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    I didn’t go through a typical job-hiring process, but I have self-disclosed quite a few times since. I do it on a case-by-case basis with clients and colleagues.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    Honestly, every moment! I never dreamed I’d be able to do this, and I still don’t quite understand how I’m able to make it work (though I have some theories). I’m just so thankful to have found this path, and for the confidence it’s given me.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    I think stuttering, in general, has made me a more empathetic, intuitive person, which in turn has made me a better Pilates teacher (I hope!). It’s important for me to know how far to push a client and to gauge where they are mentally on any given day. It’s also important to me that every client feels safe and supported when they’re with me, and I think I value this more being a person who stutters.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    I would advise self-disclosure and self-compassion above all else! And just remember that nothing stays the same. You will grow and change as a person over time, your fluency will go up and down, and you can absolutely do more than you think you can do. Also, when you find good people to work with, hang on to them. I had been searching for a new career path, but I hadn’t considered teaching Pilates until my instructor suggested it. I already knew her and trusted her, and loved the practice itself…the rest is history (and a ton of work and growth). It had never occurred to me that I could teach, but it turns out I can and I am.