ASHA Schools 2011: Capitalizing on Communication Along the banks of the Potomac River, with breathtaking views of the National Mall to one side and quaint Old Town Alexandria on the other, more than 1,000 school-based clinicians convened at ASHA’s 12th annual Schools Conference, held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. ... ASHA News
ASHA News  |   August 01, 2011
ASHA Schools 2011: Capitalizing on Communication
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor and writer for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor and writer for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   August 01, 2011
ASHA Schools 2011: Capitalizing on Communication
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 18-21. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.16102011.18
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 18-21. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.16102011.18
Along the banks of the Potomac River, with breathtaking views of the National Mall to one side and quaint Old Town Alexandria on the other, more than 1,000 school-based clinicians convened at ASHA’s 12th annual Schools Conference, held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. The participants gathered to learn about new approaches to service delivery and cutting-edge interventions, and to do what they do best—capitalize on communication.
Held July 8–10, the conference included 26 full sessions, 48 poster sessions, 30 roundtable discussions, a member forum, and 46 exhibitors. In anticipation of ASHA’s new Associates Program, which launches this September, new to this year’s School’s Conference was the inclusion of speech-language pathology assistants and audiology assistants (see sidebar, p. 19). Friday’s schedule was designed with assistants in mind; in addition to attending any of the concurrent sessions, assistants could attend two sessions specifically for them.
Inspirational speaker Jerry Posner opened the conference Friday morning to a packed auditorium. Using the well-known “butterfly effect” metaphor, he told listeners that what they do on a day-to-day basis has exponential effects on the students they serve—and the mere fact that they were in attendance at the conference could be the beginning of big changes for them, their students, and their schools.
“You are here and that, in itself, will set off things that are about to happen,” Posner said. “You could meet a new acquaintance, you could stumble upon an idea that will help one of your students—and these all can be such positive changes!”
The 26 offered sessions focused on clinical and service-delivery issues ranging from autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to legal and ethical issues in clinical supervision. Popular sessions included Emily Rubin’s discussion on social competence in students with ASDs, during which she demonstrated how differently these students view humans and human interactions. Because people with ASDs use the visual-spatial portion of their brains to view other people, they view people much like objects—objects that pick them up and give them food—but still objects.
“When I finally realized this, I was heartbroken!” Rubin admitted to the audience. “But then I decided this information was empowering. I decided then that I was going to become these kids’ object of choice! Children with ASDs need to learn that ‘people objects’ are worth their time and effort —that’s our job.”
Another well-attended session was Julie Weatherly’s discussion of legal “hot spots” in special education. Much of her discussion centered around the use of service animals, free and appropriate public education hearings, and crisis prevention intervention training, but her message boiled down to one take-away: Work to prevent situations and not let issues escalate.
“I’ve learned that even when a court decision ends and there’s been some sort of ‘conclusion,’ it’s really not over,” Weatherly said. “Many times we all still have to work with each other until the student leaves the school and that could be years.”
Sandi Gillam, in her session on “Understanding Comprehension,” explained how the think-aloud methodology is a solid way to build reading comprehension skills in all levels of readers. In think-aloud, readers are periodically asked to comment on what they are reading and explain what is happening, thus using predictive, associative, and explanatory inferences. As a result, students are forced to use “because” and “so” statements. “The bottom line is if we can get more kids to use causal inferences, either written or spoken, we’ll have better readers,” Gillam said. “I think ‘because’ and ‘so’ should be put on every classroom door.”
Scott Yaruss, who specializes in treating childhood stuttering, explained to his standing-room-only audience that although there is no cure for stuttering, there are good treatments available. It is important, he said, to remember when working with tough cases that “stuttering is more than just stuttering—it’s a loss of control that these children feel, [and] we can’t see, but it can affect every aspect of the child’s life. Our treatments have the potential to make important differences in their lives.”
Attendees also met for a member forum where questions and discussions ranged from leadership roles to the new Associates Program. Others stayed an extra day to take part in the all-important Capitol Hill visits on Monday, July 11, during which ASHA staff and members met with elected representatives to advocate for and spread awareness of issues related to communication sciences and disorders.
Don’t Forget About the Fun
The location of this year’s conference offered attendees plenty of opportunities for action and entertainment. The National Harbor has several outstanding restaurants and shopping opportunities as well as a beautiful waterfront walkway that begs to be explored. Thursday evening featured a special welcome reception for speech-language pathology and audiology assistants; on Friday evening, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation hosted a walking ghost tour of Alexandria’s Old Town district, followed by an optional dinner. Saturday evening attendees were welcomed at a sunset reception sponsored by ASHA’s political action committee, where they enjoyed refreshments and spectacular views of the Potomac from the rooftop nightclub at the Gaylord National Hotel.
A Lasting Message: The Four ‘Cs’
As Sunday morning dawned and attendees made plans to attend the final sessions of the conference, they heard a special address by Michelle Shearer, the 2011 National Teacher of the Year. Shearer, a chemistry teacher from Maryland, told the audience that the most important skill a teacher needs is the ability to communicate. Without that skill, she said, she wouldn’t be an effective teacher. She explained why the role of school-based SLPs is becoming increasingly important for today’s students. Instead of the three “Rs”—reading, writing, and arithmetic (“I’ve always found it funny that only one of those actually starts with an ‘r’,” she added)—today’s students are faced with mastering the four “Cs”—critical thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration, and communication.
“And all of those, especially that last one, are all about what you do!” Shearer said. “It’s so wonderful to be in front of an audience who really gets it. You already know how crucial communication is to every aspect of education and life. Your work in our schools is invaluable.”
Closing plenary speaker Li-Rong Lilly Cheng also harnessed the idea of the four “Cs” and looked at them through a different lens: leadership. She told listeners that as clinicians in the public schools moving into more visible positions, audience members had the capacity to become excellent leaders because they make excellence and good communication a habit, not an act.
“Just like Michelle Shearer’s four ‘Cs,’” she said, “leadership is when we are able to think critically and communicate clearly. That puts you in the perfect position to lead the way.”
Associates Program Kicks Off at Schools Conference

Amid a flurry of activity, ASHA’s new affiliation category for speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) and audiology assistants (AAs), dubbed the Associates Program, debuted this year at the ASHA Schools Conference.

A special pre-conference reception on July 7 for assistants, supervisors, and registered conference attendees featured a brief overview of the Associates Program by Paul Rao, ASHA president, followed by an opportunity for participants to ask questions.

The first full day of the conference featured several networking opportunities for assistants and their supervisors to meet colleagues from across the country and to exchange ideas and insights. In a session presented by Lisa Keane, “SLPs and Assistants: Partners in Practice,” SLPs and assistants learned about ASHA’s Guidelines for the Training, Use, and Supervision of Speech-Language Pathology Assistants. This session also provided an opportunity for sharing personal experiences about working collaboratively.

Several sessions of interest to assistants, ranging from information on autism spectrum disorders to vocabulary development, were offered. Two sessions were specifically designed for assistants: “Serving Diverse Children and Families: The Influence of Culture and Language,” presented by Andrea Moxley, and “How Children Develop Language,” presented by Diane Paul.

Program Details

Interested assistants learned about the qualifications required to become—and perks of being—an ASHA Associate.

The Associates Program is open to individuals who are currently employed in support positions providing audiology or speech-language pathology assistant services, working under the supervision of an ASHA-certified audiologist or SLP. Applicants who are not currently employed as assistants must obtain the signature of their program director (or training program instructor) certifying that they are qualified to provide services under the direction of an ASHA-certified clinician. Associates must also:

  • Follow all ASHA policies related to the responsibilities of support personnel.

  • Agree to work only under the supervision of ASHA-certified SLPs or audiologists.

  • Pay an annual fee to maintain affiliation.

  • Be qualified to practice in their state and follow any applicable state licensure rules.

Associates may take advantage of:

  • Networking opportunities with other associates in online discussion forums, at the Schools Conference, and at the annual convention.

  • Consultation with ASHA’s professional practices staff.

  • Listing and search capabilities on ASHA’s online member and affiliate directory.

  • Participation in advocacy efforts and mentoring programs.

  • Reduced registration fees for educational programs and products.

  • Online Career Center.

  • Subscription to The ASHA Leader and access to The ASHA Leader Online.

  • Access to all four of ASHA’s online scholarly journals.

  • Subscription to associates e-newsletter.

  • Associates e-Group (listserv/forum/social network).

  • Professional development hours for associates.

  • Affinity benefits such as insurance, credit card offers, and car rental.

Find out more information about the Associates Program. Send comments or questions to

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August 2011
Volume 16, Issue 10