National Stuttering Association

Leah GrahamSocial Worker

    Leah Graham

    Charlotte, NC
    Childcare Financial Aid Social Worker
    Childcare Resources Inc.

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I am responsible for determining and maintaining eligibility for Subsidized Childcare Assistance. I maintain a caseload of roughly 250 families and I’m responsible for making updates to their cases and to their care. My day to day responsibilities include interacting with parents and childcare providers in an effort to provide care to the citizens of Mecklenburg County.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    Talking on the phone is definitely the most challenging part of my job. Every situation is different so having to recall the various State or County policies, apply it to the situation or case and then relay the information to the parent or provider in a way that can be easily understood sometimes poses a challenge. It is also challenging to portray confidence over the phone. I sometimes feel like people may think I am not sure of what I am talking about. To combat that, I always reiterate or summarize what I said back to whoever I am speaking to.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process? If so, how did you do it and how do you currently disclose your stuttering to unsuspecting co-workers, clients and or customers?
    I did disclose that I stutter during the job hiring process. At my interview I actually brought the Employers resource brochure that the NSA has on its website for people who stutter and passed it out to the interviewers. I love that brochure so much because it really paints an accurate picture of what it’s like having a person who stutters as an employee. The brochure highlights many positive traits people who stutter possess without sounding cheesy or unbelievable.

    I also verbally disclosed that I stutter and welcomed any questions. Since COVID-19 we have been taking applications over the phone and I have started saying a blanket statement of: “Before we get started, I just want to let you know that I stutter, if something is unclear, please just let me know and I will be more than happy to repeat it”. I love that statement because I am not apologizing for stuttering, I am simply focused on making sure the information is relayed and that my client understands.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    Stuttering itself is just so vulnerable. I believe that openly stuttering really offers a piece of authenticity that I am not sure I would otherwise possess. In the Human Services field, connection is important. Being able to connect with clients, coworkers and other members of the community is such a huge plus and I attribute my ability to do so to stuttering.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    Oh man, my proudest moment was definitely hosting a Zoom call at work for National Stuttering Awareness Day this year. I talked about stuttering and stuttering in the workplace. The call was everything I hoped it would be and more. My co-workers were engaged and asked some really amazing and profound questions. It was really cool seeing my two worlds collide.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    Because of my stutter I remember being younger and marking lawyer off of my “what I want to be when I grow up list”. There was no question that being a lawyer and a person who stutters just did not mix. But now I am studying for the LSAT! I want to be a lawyer. For 5 years I have been enforcing State policy, now I want to create it.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    BE KIND TO YOURSELF. That is my advice. Just be kind to yourself. I know that I am not 100% confident in myself as a person who stutters every second of every day, and I have learned that that is OK! Being a person who stutters while trying to achieve success in the workplace is not easy. Picture the Spongebob meme where he is wiping off his forehead and leaning against a wall, THAT’S ME SOMEDAYS! And guess what? It is ok. Wipe your forehead and lean against that wall because some days, we need it.