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Schools 2015 Was a Sizzler!

by Lyndsey Zurawski

Sensational sessions. School SLPs. Small intimate conference. What more could you ask for? Coming home from the 2015 ASHA Schools conference in Phoenix, Ariz., leaves me full of new ideas, an Amazon delivery (ninety dollars’ worth of books!) coming to my house, and notes in my iPhone of colleagues to connect with over the next few weeks.

If you’ve never been to an ASHA Schools conference, you’re surely missing out. I have attended since 2013 and each year the professional development team never ceases to amaze me. The thought that goes into planning conference topics and speakers is impeccable to meet the needs of the school SLP. There are always concurrent sessions, with each one appearing more intriguing than the next. I used to worry about missing valuable information. Not anymore! ASHA now offers the PLUS package, which allows you to listen to every session (they are recorded live) when you get home and the ability to receive additional CEUs. Did you know that by attending and completing the conference with the PLUS package, I will earn more than 4.0 CEUs?!

Each session I attended was full of eager SLPs looking to learn evidenced-based practices to take home and begin using as soon as school starts in a few weeks. This year, I learned about NPR’s remarkable StoryCorps (storycorps.org) program, started by Dave Isay, that allows individuals to record themselves in a soundproof booth in an interview style that leaves you with goose bumps. Differential diagnosis for word finding from Dr. German was eye-opening and has me thinking about professional development for educators;  interprofessional practice (IPP) from Dr. Beunza was thought-provoking for maintaining relationships with both fellow colleagues and clients; expository writing techniques from Dr. Ukrainetz that I can apply to my practice immediately; Dr. Westby solidified my evidence- and research-based practices supporting foundational reading skills in the classroom; and Dr. Raj provided myriad apps to incorporate into speech and language therapy.

One session sticks with me the most. The session: “A View From the Field: Teachers, Psychologists, and Principals Weigh In About SLP Roles” used a panel format with a school psychologist, a general education teacher, a special education teacher, and a principal. I found the different perspectives fascinating and left me wanting more information about this topic. Have you thought about how others perceive your role as a speech-language pathologist?

This conference is so much more than the sessions though. This cozy conference continues to provide opportunities to interact with #speechfamous individuals such as current and past ASHA presidents, members from the Board of Directors, and extraordinary SLPs that you can only dream of meeting! It allows the opportunity to sit over breakfast or lunch in the exhibit hall and chat with these individuals as if they were close friends. A few times I had to pinch myself! I felt like I was sitting with speech royalty at several meals! Speaking of food… breakfast is served each day, with options such as fresh fruit, a selection of protein, coffee and juices. The box lunch always offered two options that included one for vegetarians. I love that there are always choices. My favorite foods though are the snacks provided in the exhibit hall in the afternoons (usually representative of the location, providing a glimpse into local fare).

An exciting twist this year was the co-location of ASHA schools conference and the Health Care and Business Institute (HCBI). This year there was not the ability to crossover. However, the wonderful team at ASHA hasn’t even returned home from this conference and they are already discussing ways to allow us some additional flexibility next year. That’s incredible! That could mean access to two phenomenal conferences in one!

This is just the tip of the iceberg that I’ve described. If you missed out this year, don’t worry because next year the Schools Conference and HCBI is in Minneapolis, Minn., so plan now to attend July 8-10, 2016. I hope to see you there. I know I’ve already marked my calendar for those dates!


Lyndsey Zurawski, SLP.D, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and diagnostician for The School District of Palm Beach County. Zurawski also has a small private practice in Wellington, Florida. She creates speech and language materials and writes for her blog Speech to the Core (www.speechtothecore.com).

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