Happy New Year to my whole ASHA family – those dedicated to helping people achieve “human wholeness!” I am so proud to be part of this profession and believe I was predestined to be an SLP. The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was My Fair Lady. I’ve since become a modern-day Henry Higgins and even have worked with university teaching assistants on accent reduction! I was also a recipient of the care engendered by those in my as-yet-unchosen field when an amazing neurologist and SLP “asked me questions” (a child’s interpretation of diagnostics) and guided my family during my recovery from a head injury significant enough to require last rites in 1971.
Although a practicing member for more than 25 years, I didn’t attend my first ASHA convention until 2013. I went to update my clinical and research skills, but also to visit school friends from Northwestern who still live in Chicago. I particularly enjoyed the courses presented by a then recent ASHA fellow and complimented her in our hotel elevator. I also asked a question about spring 2014 events. She not only answered my questions, but allowed my family to stay in her family’s home during our visit!
One Chicago friend (an organizational psychologist) was shocked at the friendliness and trust exemplified by even the offer of such hospitality and further astounded when I told her nearly 15,000 people attended the 2013 conference. I explained that ASHA members are friendly, helpful people. That presenter and new acquaintance was no fool, however, she did her due diligence and called my current work ‘family’ to vet my responsibility. I, in turn, offered her the use of our Orlando lake home as she celebrated being named “Fellow” with her family.
That story shows how I, and many of my peers, view ASHA as a large extended family, which was reinforced by my encounters at the 2014 “Generations of Discovery” convention. Harry Belafonte, along with his daughter and granddaughter, highlighted how family focus has directed their lives. At the awards event, Annie Glenn explained how services such as her 1973 stuttering therapy, “save us from being solitary souls,” while father-son TV journalists the Geists received her “Annie” Award for their communication contributions. Honors of the Association recipient, Nan Bernstein-Ratner, gushed that obtaining the Glenns’ autographs on a photo and copy of the Geists’ book, The Right Stuff, for her son were her most moving moments of the convention. Voice expert Daniel Boone shared how excited he was that his son and granddaughter were visiting from Tampa. We were saddened by Jeri Logemann’s passing, but her impact is ever present, from the pins at an exhibitor’s display to shared remembrances of a holiday party at her home.
None of us are “solitary souls” and our uniquely human abilities to enjoy conversing and sharing with our families and friends are a testament to the vital work each of us has chosen to undertake. For the new year, I wish my ASHA family wisdom (recalling John Rosenbek’s closing session’s “Neuroplasticity” message that we “First do no harm”), a wealth of well-wishers (for our world has its woes), and work as we help heal the world in 2015!
Denise Dancull, M.A., CCC-SLP is a pediatric SLP with more than 25 years experience specializing in cleft palate and cochlear implant services. Please feel free to contact this proud parent, bibliophile and theater fan at firstname.lastname@example.org.