This is ASHA Convention “number 24 or 25” for Stuart Settle. He’s a speech-language pathologist working in a skilled nursing facility outside of Atlanta. His background, however, is in research, so he appreciated ASHA President Gail Richard’s attention to research as she kicked off the convention’s opening session. She emphasized staying connected to research in everyday practice.
Keynoter Goldie Hawn also impressed him with her pursuit of brain science and her focus on helping children understand how their brains work.
“She also linked her work to what we do every day,” Settle says, “but mentioning how this also works for adults doing cognitive rehab,” Settle says.
Hawn shared how she’s been working on better understanding the brain since her early 20s. She had issues with anxiety and depression, so began exploring how to overcome those feelings. This led to an understanding of how others’ actions toward us comes from their perspective and does not reflect who we are.
Hawn also emphasized that, as professionals focused on helping others, audiologists and SLPs need to remember to take care of themselves. That message resonated for Corrin Richels, associate professor of communication disorders and special education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
“I liked how Goldie tied in the ‘focus on the big picture’ [convention theme] in her talk and emphasized the importance of who we are, not just what we do,” said Richels. She also appreciated Hawn’s comments “that we need to put on our oxygen mask first so we’re strong enough to help others. Also, great use of the term of how we are a ‘relational profession’ and that takes a lot out of you. I’m going to tell my graduate students that when I get back to work.”
Hawn recounted why she developed the Hawn Foundation and why it focuses on a program for schools to teach children about their amygdala, prefrontal cortex, limbic system, neuroplasticity and other brain science. She asked herself: “How do meditation, cognitive therapy change the brain?”
She knew about neuroplasticity and practiced meditation, but wanted to find out how it worked. She saw how school was stressing out her three children and felt if they knew what she knew about the brain and mindfulness it could help them focus more on learning and less on school stress.
Angela Carey-Adams, an SLP for the New York City Department of Education, feels validated by Hawn’s emphasis on mindfulness and self-care, especially for helping professionals.
“She comes from such a different background, but sees what we do and has invested so much of her time and self in supporting children and the helping professions,” Carey-Adams said. “It feels very validating because we do get drained and need to remind ourselves of what we bring.”
Other convention attendees shared what they looked forward to about ASHA17. Julie Graves, from Raleigh, California, has worked as an SLP in schools for more than 30 years and has been coming to ASHA every other year or so.
“This is my first conference after retiring in June,” she says. “I’m so excited to attend whatever sessions interest me! I can really just listen and enjoy the presentations without having to scramble for ideas or take notes on how to help my students.”
On the other end of the convention attendance spectrum is Rebecca Kelvin, a school-based SLP at an elementary school in Moraga, California. This is her first convention and she hopes to explore “relevant areas of practice and rejuvenate my knowledge base. And I also want to connect with my graduate school classmates.”
Sari Siegel, Kelvin’s former classmate, is a high-school-based SLP in the Bronx who attends convention every year. “I come to get inspired and to learn,” Siegel says. “For the past four years, I provide professional development to the staff in my school based on what I’ve learned at Convention.”
Michael Bergen is an audiologist and his wife, Amy Bergen, is an SLP. They live interprofessional practice and have attended convention together almost every year for about 30 years.
Bergen is the clinic director for the speech-language pathology program at Brooklyn College, so he’s also professionally focused on interprofessional education. He wants to develop an early intervention curriculum for the program.
“There’s too much good stuff!” he said as he perused the program. His wife is a clinician in a special needs school in Staten Island, where she also supervises a clinical fellow and mentors new SLPs. She’s excited about sessions on practical skills, supervision and interprofessional collaboration. And, of course, networking!
Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for THe ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org.