National Stuttering Association

Ross Kaplan

    Ross Kaplan

    Washington, DC
    Education Program Specialist
    Office of the State Superintendent of Education DC

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I investigate special education complaints filed against public schools in DC concerning student special education programming and assist community members with questions about how they can file complaints and what advocacy resources are available to them.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    To investigate complaints I interview families and school staff members by phone. I start with scripted questions, but often have to think on my feet to ask follow up questions to clarify matters. With calls I receive from community members, I almost never know ahead of time what they will be asking about so it’s still a nerve wracking prospect to have to speak speak and answer questions extemporaneously without time to plan ahead of time. I still stutter during interviews, calls, or meetings, but I’m no longer terrified of picking up the phone.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    Continuing to play a role in making sure schools provide needed services to special education students so they have an equal opportunity to succeed academically and socially.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    As a child I had an individualized education plan (IEP) which included speech and language services and part of my job is to make sure schools are implementing IEP services like speech so speaking about speech therapy I received for stuttering was an important part of back story to demonstrate my familiarity with IEPs and the importance of providing special education services.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    Any time I am thanked by a community member, showing me the positive impact my work has on them, or when I am speaking with a parent of a child who requires speech therapy who can see me as an example of what their child can do.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    It makes me a more thoughtful and patient listener. I feel no rush to jump right in with an immediate response, I can concentrate on my breathing and other speech therapy tips I’ve received over the years to take in all of the information spoken to me before responding.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    Don’t let your stutter control you or prevent you from accomplishing your goals. You have important things to say and share. Anyone who views you as less than because you stutter is not worth your time. Most people will value you for the kind of person you are, not the way you speak.