Briefly describe your daily job duties.
As an Occupational Therapist for a public school district in Illinois, I work with elementary school students of different abilities and needs. I provide interventions to help students improve their independence in the school environment, such as improving their fine motor skills, helping with classroom transitions, and accommodating their sensory needs. I also work closely with classroom teachers and other specialists on supporting the students and creating IEP goals.
As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
Speaking up during team meetings and doing large group presentations have always been stressful for me. When I first started working, I was very shy and quiet; I only spoke when it was time to discuss my part. However, I have been working on improving my confidence and asserting myself more vocally to let my voice be heard.
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?
Yes, I always disclose that I have a stutter at the beginning of any interview so that employers will not think it’s due to nervousness. I also explain my stuttering to my students because they are often very curious about it and want to help in any way they can.
Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
Having a stutter has made me a more patient and empathetic person, especially when it comes to working with individuals with disabilities. I have also become a strong advocate for students with speech impediments and work with my team on providing accommodations and support for those students.
What is your proudest moment at your current company?
Advocating for my students gives me joy. It reminds me of the days when my own speech therapists and teachers have supported me in the past and have made me the person that I am today.
What are your long-term career aspirations?
I hope to take on more leadership roles as a school-based occupational therapist and perhaps even start my own occupational therapy practice down the road.
What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
It is better to disclose your stutter and explain how your co-workers or supervisor can best support you. Attempting to hide your stutter only makes life harder for yourself. People will see past the stutter and will appreciate you for your skills and talents. Also, if you feel that you are being judged based on how fluently you speak, then perhaps it is not the right working environment for you because you deserve to be surrounded by co-workers who support you.