Philadelphia Here We Come

When November rolls around in the world of speech-language pathology and audiology, it only seems natural that one’s thoughts turn to the Annual Convention. This year’s gathering, in Philadelphia, is just a quick trip across Pennsylvania so Clarion University will be well represented. Many of our program’s students will be attending their first professional conference. The sense of excitement among those going is palpable, though their anticipation is tempered by questions about what to expect. Some have turned to me for insight, which has spurred reflection on my part.

Liberty bell

Photo by Tony the Misfit

The ASHA Annual Convention represents a multitude of things…it’s an educational forum…it’s a science fair…it’s a chance to see the newest products and the latest books…it’s a reunion…it’s an opportunity to network and meet new people. In sum, it’s an intensive three day immersion into the culture of speech-language pathology and audiology.

The highlight of every convention are the presentations…auditory processing disorders, fluency, motor speech, augmentative and alternative communication, swallowing, culturally and linguistically diverse, language disorders, speech science, voice and resonance, speech sound disorders…there is truly something for everyone. Posters, seminars, technical sessions, short courses…formal or informal, short form or long…choose the format that suits you best. With the array of choices, it behooves one to have a preliminary plan. Like a child poring through the Sear’s “Wish Book” in days gone by, I sit with the ASHA-provided My Planner and make a schedule of who, what, when, and where…prepared to expect the unexpected because you just never know what interest might be piqued.

Not only will I be attending a multitude of presentations, I’ll also have the pleasure of delivering a few as well. Four posters, all prepared in conjunction with students, will be posted at various times on a bulletin board in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Hall C, for all to see. The topics vary, reflecting the diversity of subject matter in the profession…the perception of instructor accent by SLP students, the potential cognitive-linguistic deficits associated with Lyme disease, the portrayal of SLPs in print advertising. Like the proud parent of a middle schooler who has earned a blue ribbon for a project, I’ll stand with the involved students and take pleasure in knowing that each presentation started with an idea and was developed into a full-blown research project deemed worthy of dissemination to others.

How best to describe the Exhibit Hall…a carnival midway is the first analogy that leaps to mind…the sights, the sounds, the crush of people. Over 200 vendors, all with something new to see…books, therapy materials, tests, technology, novelties…the latest and the greatest, just step right up. Fortunately the maelstrom that is the Exhibit Hall can be explored in a more optimal manner than in years past using ASHA’s Virtual Expo, which allows one to plan the experience. Nevertheless, I’d still be prepared to expect the unexpected…you never know who will have that “hot”, “gotta have” item.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of any ASHA Convention is seeing friends and familiar faces. In some respects it’s like a high school reunion…who does what…who is where…have the years between our last meeting been good? Like many in the field, I’ve made several stops along the way. And at each stop I’ve met people and made friends, both personal and professional, who I’m anxious to reconnect with. Former professors (that includes you Drs. Peach, Molt, and DeChicchis)…former colleagues (paging you Dr. Linares and Ms. Saltsgiver)…former students…and people with whom I’ve developed friendships (looking forward to it Leisa, Charles, Scott, Amy, Mark, Clint). Yes, I’m still teaching…yes, I’m still at Clarion…yes, the family is good…yes, I’ve lost a little more hair…yes, I’ve gained weight and its probably not all muscle.

Almost as much fun as seeing the “old” is meeting the “new”. Chatting with somebody next to you at a presentation…talking to a presenter after a session…connecting with someone you’ve communicated with solely through email…joining a Dynamic Learning Group…meeting up with a STEP Mentee. Maybe this will be the year I actually remember to give out one of the business cards I come armed with. Though we might be different and strangers to each other, we all have one thing in common…speech-language pathology and audiology.

Do you have any reflections or or experiences related to the ASHA Convention that you’d like to share? How about tips for helping others successfully navigate the experience?

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.