St. Tammany Parish Public School System sits just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. The district sent several of its approximately 120 SLPs—including McKeba Acker—to ASHA’s School Connect in NOLA. Acker coordinates the speech-language pathology program for St. Tammany, so she was excited to discover new approaches and strategies she could take back to her colleagues.
“I really learned a lot about the importance of partnering with teachers,” Acker said of a session presented by Barb Ehren on SLPs working with teachers in general education classrooms. “It’s not about just going into a class to treat students,” she added. “Treatment involves an SLP taking time to collaborate with teachers, and I appreciated [Ehren’s] advice to start with a small step—one grade, one teacher—and setting a goal for that change.”
Editor’s note: This post covers ASHA’s Schools Connect conference, recently held in New Orleans. For insights on the Health Care and Private Practice Connects, check out Carol Polovoy’s post from yesterday.
Emily Homer also represented St. Tammany Parrish with Acker. Their district has a large special education population—Acker said people move to the area just for the schools’ services. Homer took advantage of a session by Donna Edwards on feeding and swallowing disorders. “We have around 180 students with swallowing or feeding issues,” Homer said, “so I needed ideas on how to connect those students with our school SLPs.”
Elsewhere at the conference, Jill Hodge—an SLP for a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Greensboro, North Carolina—shared insights from hearing Jack Henderson and Kenton Shaw discuss what to say to students who stutter—and their parents—during consultations. She said she’ll change her approach when talking with students after hearing Henderson say it’s OK to give a kid permission to stutter.
Seasoned SLPs weren’t the only ones benefiting from new perspectives at Connect. A group of six graduate students from Mississippi’s Jackson State University enthusiastically discussed their experiences. “This inspired me to continue to grow and learn after I’m practicing,” Audrianna Strickland said. “Also, I’m learning a holistic approach to treating a child. And applying evidence-based practice in real situations!”
Strickland’s classmate, Anna Tuguchera, agreed. “It’s nice seeing these clinicians talking about approaches we learn in school.” Classmate Brianna Dennis added that she feels like the conference helps “bridge the gap between what [students] read in their texts and getting to hear how SLPs apply those concepts.”
Not everyone could pick their favorite session or takeaway, but several attendees agreed that Connect’s concentrated focus, plus the freedom they enjoyed to attend a health care or private practice session, provided significant professional growth in a short time. For example, Diane Milanese from Baltimore—where ASHA Connect will be held next year—said this conference lets SLPs “thrive in problem-solving sessions and learn creative, data-driven processes to change the way we treat or set up systems.”