I Came…I Saw

The 2010 ASHA Convention in Philadelphia has come and gone, though its memories remain fresh in my mind.  Like all conventions there are things which I’ll remember fondly and others, well…not so much.  In the spirit of channeling my inner movie critic, I present my list of convention HITS and MISSES.

Street flag "Welcome with Love Philadelphia xoxo ASHA"
Photo by Kenn Staub

HIT: Reunions with old friends…Walking throughout the convention site I was occasionally startled by shrieks as long time friends greeted each other, often with warm embraces.  Some had not seen each other for months, others years.  I myself was not immune (though I do not shriek)…whether it was reminiscing about the 1992 Penguins/Blackhawks Stanley Cup playoff series with Richard Peach…listening as a former professor, Larry Molt, told my current students embarrassing stories about my college days (“Don’t eat the eggs”)…chatting-up Leisa Harmon about the state of affairs at a university where I once taught (Minot State in North Dakota)…dining with Charles Ellis and shooting the breeze, talking about this, that, and other things as if we had just seen each other yesterday and not two years ago.

HIT: Meeting new people…As anyone who has ever attended a convention can attest, part of the attraction is networking.  Meeting new people, hearing other perspectives, learning from each other.  In this I’m sure I was not alone.  It was my pleasure to have met, among others…Maggie McGary, the moderator of ASHAsphere, who was kind enough to share her perspective on ASHA’s involvement with social media…Todd Tyler of Dynavox, who discussed developments in the world of alternative and assistive technology…Lesley Magnus from Minot State, who had some interesting ideas for further development of a poster I presented (“No, I had not considered that”).  Like my students, who were excited to meet and pose for pictures with Barry Guitar, I was not immune to being “star struck”…it was truly a privilege to discuss professional ethics with Norman Lass, an individual I’ve admired since reading his multi-volume collection Speech, Language, and Hearing in the mid 1980s (when I was a student).

MISS: Long lines…Whether it was waiting for coffee in the morning, trying to get served at lunch, or simply picking up registration materials, a line could be found snaking across the convention floor at almost any given moment.  After talking with many attendees, it seems that waiting to pick-up registration materials was the most galling.  True, ASHA provided an option for materials to be sent in advance, but a one-and-a-half hour wait to pick-up a paper badge, receipt, and swipe card on Thursday morning…after having already registered on-line…really.

HIT: Watching students come into their own…Like many college faculty in attendance, I was looking forward to presenting with my students and seeing how they would hold-up under the scrutiny of a nation-wide representation of speech-language pathologists.  Luke Martin discussing the perception of accented speech by SLP students for nearly three hours…Sara Johnson and Vanessa Wheatley, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8:00 on Saturday morning ready to explore the portrayal of SLPs in print advertising with interested parties…Greg Hoover unveiling one of the first speech pathology-specific studies pertaining to effects of Lyme disease on cognitive-linguistic function at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon…they all acquitted themselves well and should be proud of their accomplishments.

MISS: Lack of session moderators…Though short courses had moderators, they were noticeably lacking at technical sessions and seminars.  Who was going to start the session…how were the speakers to be introduced…who would ensure that speakers did not stray from their allotted time…how were questions to be solicited from the audience.  Fortunately confusion was held to a minimum, at least in the sessions I attended.

MISS: Closed sessions…Fortunately none of the sessions I wanted to attend were closed (I suppose voice disorders weren’t that popular this year), but I heard grumblings from colleagues about having to sit on the floor and being turned away from packed rooms.  This, in fact, led some to leave sessions early or miss ones they hoped to attend in order to get seats (possibly) at others.  The end result was the same…missed continuing education opportunities, missed learning experiences.

HIT: Poster sessions…I love the diverse nature of the presentations which can be found at any one time in the Poster Hall.  Who knows what interesting subject is just around the corner??   I learned, among so many interesting projects, the history of aphasia therapy…how to prepare my students for potentially difficult clinical placements…that some SLPs still might consider blowing and sucking activities as effective for treating velopharyngeal dysfunction…how to make grad school more appealing to non-traditional students…the list goes on.

As with everything in life, there was some positive, some negative.  I’m confident, however, that my memories of what I learned, who I met, and how I enjoyed myself will last far longer than any negatives which might have been experienced.  This being noted, I do know one thing for sure…I can’t wait for the next ASHA convention.

This blurb represents the opinions and experiences of this author and this author only.  If you have a “HIT” or “MISS” or other memory from Philadelphia, feel free to share them in the comments section.

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.


  1. Leisa Harmon says

    Kenn- You’ve “hit” the nail on the head again in your latest post. I, too, certainly would “miss” the annual convention if I didn’t attend. Hopefully ASHA can maximize its strengths and improve on the weaknesses for next year.

  2. Greg Hoover says

    The 2010 ASHA Convention in Philadelphia was my first convention that I attended. I agree with the “Hits” of this years convention as noted by the author, Kenneth Staub. I really enjoyed the poster sessions which I had the opportunity to network with other researchers. I’ve made new friends who I look forward to meeting next year. Exploring all of the poster sessions also gave me a sense of direction to where the field of speech-language pathology and audiology research is trending.

    Another “Hit” of the convention was attending the NSSLHA Knowledge Bowl: Battle of the Regions. This event was a great way for fellow graduate students to get together to relax and have fun!

  3. Candace Shaner says

    Unfortunately I was unable to attend this year (not ready to leave the baby!), but hope to attend in the future! I love this blog and cant wait to experience all the “hits” at a future convention!

  4. Colleen McAleer says

    Kenn – good job on the “hits” and “misses.” The crowded rooms for the sessions were really tough to take, but the content of each session I attended was excellent. The city is a great city for a convention with lots of nearby hotels and restaurants.
    Maybe next year, ASHA can do something differently to minimize the lines for registration.

  5. Leisa Harmon says

    Colleen–so true about the crowded rooms. I attended some sessions in huge 800 capacity auditoriums with only 20 people in attendance. Conversely, I attended sessions by presenters who were very well-known in small rooms with many people sitting on the floor or standing cramped together in the back. ASHA–next year please put the “rock stars” in the auditoriums.

  6. Ruth Marin says

    Miss: Exhibitors for audiologists. While I know that many exhibitors save their larger displays for AAA, there were only two hearing aid manufacturers and maybe 4-5 other booths with audiology related items. It was the weakest showing yet.
    Miss: Audiology sessions. I attended 9 hours of seminars during the three days of convention and most were excellent, however, there were blocks of time where I couldn’t find a session of interest.
    This will definitely be my last ASHA convention unless it is held in DC or I present.

  7. Jo Naylor says

    Hit: Great Food!!! Can’t beat the variety of my home city.

    Miss: There were not enough people to help with setting up posters!!!! There were 2 people who seemed clueless and not willing to help out. I helped at least 10 people hang up their posters.
    I was also sad to see so few Audiology-focused presentations.

    Realistically- it is really hard to ‘guess-timate’ how many people will be interested in different sessions. It really depends on the ‘topic of the year’….
    Lines for registration materials can’t really be avoided especially if more than 300 people arrive at the same time.

    Hit: I also got to network and meet new people, and see old friends.

    Miss: It would have been easier to have a ‘grid-like’ table for sessions instead of having to read every session.

    HIT: I GOT my hours for the renewal of my license!!!

  8. Sara Johnson says

    Thank you for the “Shout Out” and all of the hard work that you put into our presentation in order for it to turn out as well as it did!!! I was utterly surprised at how I became so emotionally-involved in the poster when people cared to stop and ask a few simple questions. It was unlike any assignment or test that I have taken at the collegiate level, as I invested a part of me in that poster that I was unaware of until I began talking to all sorts of people from around the country. Thank you again for helping instill the passion for the profession that every student yearns to feel.

    HIT: I’d also have to agree with Greg in that the Knowledge Bowl for NSSLHA was a ton of a fun, and not to mention a fantastic learning experience! I had the chance, along with four other terrific students, to interact and face students from different universities in our fight to win $1,000!! Although we didn’t win the grand prize, there was much to be said of that experience. As I have a great deal of pride for Clarion University, it’s professors, my peers, and everyone else from the University that has allowed me (and my fellow peers) to gain the knowledge necessary to feel confident and competent enough to enter the “real world” of Speech-Language Pathology!

    ASHA convention 2010 – a pure and utter success

  9. Charles says

    Ken – Great “hits” and “misses”.

    MAJOR HIT – Dinner – Having dinner at the same restaurant two nights in a row with great food, great service and great conversation each time was a major hit. On the other hand, maybe it was just the cheap food and the comedy that we call our kids.

    MAJOR MISS – Lines – I plan to request that my badge be sent to my office this year.

    See you in San Diego.

    • Kenn says

      Thanks for reading my entry Charles. Your comments brought a smile to my face. San Diego…maybe…there are those pesky things called “flight” and “airplane travel” standing in my way. (Maybe we could road trip out there and turn our adventures into a “speech-language pathology buddy story” for the movies.)

  10. says

    Movie Review -The King’s Speech
    By Eugene O’Reilly M.A., C.C.C. – SLP
    Speech-Language Pathologist, Accent Specialist and Voice Coach
    Certified by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association
    California Speech-Language Pathology License SP 9363

    The treatment of Dysfluency (current clinical term for “stuttering” or “stammering”) is a branch of Speech-Language Pathology which ranks as one of the more difficult to provide with a low success rate of decreasing or eliminating the condition. The King’s Speech exemplifies the many human variables involved when attempting to remedy Dysfluent Speech. With the idea that this movie is entertainment and that during the period in history portrayed (mid-1930s), the profession of Speech-Language Pathology was less than 20 years old in America, I want to comment on what I consider the significant and interesting events portrayed in this movie.

    We all stutter. This means that everyone is Dysfluent or stutters either from time to time or often; perhaps all the time. It is a matter of degrees and percentages. The Faux Speech Therapist character in the movie who admitted he was actually an actor who had figured out how to help stutterers provided several treatments which I recognized as being related to my professional training on how to treat Dysfluent Speech. I will cite a few examples.

    Dr. Daniel Boone, a well-known Speech Voice Pathologist and author of numerous books on Voice Treatment describes a method for helping people to talk louder. The patient wears headphones and white noise is introduced while they read. The loudness of the white noise increased in order for them to speak louder i.e. hear themselves speaking. The Speech Therapist in the movie used the same method with headphones and loud music and made a recording which Prince Albert took home. It caused him to be fluent without realizing it. This would appear to me to indicate that his condition was more of a personality issue than a neurological condition. He knew the right way to speak and the device allowed him to do so. If they had continued using it the therapist would have eventually lowered the volume while the patient was reading so that they could realize the fluency (uninterrupted voice) of their speech.

    During the 1970s a device called Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF) was invented to help persons with Dysfluent speech. As the patient spoke into a microphone a slightly delayed production of their speech was presented through the headphones. It was like a very “fast echo”. For a person with fluent speech using the device caused them to stutter. For a stutterer it caused them to be fluent. The scene in the movie in which Prince Albert addressed a crowd at a stadium presented a similar situation to DAF. The slight echo he experienced while speaking into the microphone might have helped him if he wasn’t so overwhelmed with emotion by seeing the people staring at him and waiting for him to talk.

    There is a time during early child development in which all children (about three years old) are somewhat dysfluent because of the demands to learn Speech and Language. During that time, if too much attention is drawn to the speaking ability of the child or difficult/dramatic emotional events occur that are related to speaking Dysfluency may continue, get worse and eventually become stuttering. In the movie, it was very apparent through Prince Albert’s descriptions of his upbringing that a great deal of pressure was put on him to perform in ways in which he wasn’t able. He appeared to be left-handed and was forced to be right-handed. He might’ve been ambidextrous. Handedness has always been a significant factor in stuttering. The many emotional and physical demands put upon him in order to be Royal compounded his Dysfluent speech. He put demands on the speech therapists and others on his life in the same way that demands that were put upon him.

    Stuttering is a learned behavior. Late 20th century and early 21st century studies called “brain mapping” have located specific areas in the brain which appear to be strongly related to Dysfluent speech. The many theories of stuttering which have been presented include the idea that both neurological functions along with environmental and emotional factors determine how severe the stuttering will be. During the interviews by the faux speech therapist, Prince Albert revealed being so severely disciplined that my impression was that the circumstances contributed more to the Dysfluency than whatever neurological malfunctions may have been present. With stuttering being a learned behavior it is a matter of unlearning any related behaviors in order to speak differently especially for adults. All of the tongue twisters, nonsense phrases, body movements while speaking and assorted other physical relaxation and breathing techniques were part of that unlearning process. He had to do all of those odd exercises and ways of speaking in order to override his learned a pattern of speaking. He had to do them enough times so that they replaced the old way.

    What made this movie exciting was the time pressure put upon everyone to help the King produce a live broadcast speech so crucial to the history of England. The culmination of the various therapy methods were all put into play as the faux speech therapist’s face was inches from the King’s and he reminded him of the various unlearning techniques they had practiced.

    Comments regarding this movie made by people in my profession in the great blogosphere, considered the methods used by the main character to be unethical and unworthy of any modern-day Speech-Language Pathologist. I would agree that in a consumer oriented society rife with litigation every professional is advised to be very careful how they deliver services, how successful those services are, how much they charge and whether they truly deserve that money. In regard to this movie, I would say that the oddball, unethical, disorganized and unacceptable delivery of services saved the day and perhaps changed history. It also gave me a great deal of hope that people who don’t have an in-depth knowledge of Speech Language Treatment will see that Dysfluent speech has a level of greatness to it and that the way Dysfluent people are treated by others will greatly influence the outcome of their ability to become more fluent. We are all subject to the judgments of others, our own emotions, the influences of environment as well as contending with Dysfluent speech.