Schools Conference Draws 1,000 to Phoenix Phoenix was poker-hot in mid-July-think 117 degrees-but it paled next to the creative energy generated by the 1,000 school-based clinicians, presenters, exhibitors, and others who came by plane, train, and automobile to the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa on July 14-16 for Schools 2006, ASHA’s annual professional development bash ... ASHA News
ASHA News  |   September 01, 2006
Schools Conference Draws 1,000 to Phoenix
Author Notes
  • Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at
    Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   September 01, 2006
Schools Conference Draws 1,000 to Phoenix
The ASHA Leader, September 2006, Vol. 11, 1-26. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.11132006.1
The ASHA Leader, September 2006, Vol. 11, 1-26. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.11132006.1
Phoenix was poker-hot in mid-July-think 117 degrees-but it paled next to the creative energy generated by the 1,000 school-based clinicians, presenters, exhibitors, and others who came by plane, train, and automobile to the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa on July 14-16 for Schools 2006, ASHA’s annual professional development bash for school-based members.
Attendance at the conference sets new records every year, reflecting the increasing popularity of this mid-summer event that relies on top-flight faculty, an intimate and supportive social setting, a beautiful venue, and clinicians excited about honing their skills as they look forward to the new academic year.
“Intervention: What Works!” was the theme of the conference, which featured three plenaries, 16 concurrent sessions, 56 poster sessions, roundtable discussions on dozens of hot topics, 137 exhibit booths by 50 companies, and a ticketed fund-raiser by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation) showcasing a spectacular demonstration of Native American traditional dance.
Vision and Values
The conference opened with a welcome from President Alex Johnson and a Native American “smudging” ceremony by a member of the Navajo nation, who lit a sprig of sage and wafted the fragrance aloft as he offered a ceremonial blessing in Navajo for participants and the event.
The opening plenary featured four nationally known-and dynamic-speakers in the educational speech-language pathology world, speaking on “Vision and Values: What Works!”: Barbara Ehren, Judy Montgomery, Nickola Nelson, and moderator Wayne Secord.
Ehren, a research associate with the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, kicked off the joint presentation with humor and insight, focusing on what it takes for professionals-and students-to “thrive, not survive.” She shared her personal “Creed of the Conscientious Professional,” based on that precept:
“I will do my best to meet students’ needs within the boundaries of my capacity and control. I will work hard, but I will not drive myself crazy, nor will I neglect myself and my family in the process. I will make appropriate changes that I can make in my professional situation. On a larger scale, I will advocate for productive educational reform. I will enjoy my life, personal and professional. I will not merely survive; I will thrive!”
For students to thrive in school and in life, Ehren listed concepts to consider. Among them are:
  • Start with the end in mind-backward design.

  • Consider that intervention and delivery are intertwined.

  • Maintain a therapeutic focus for students with specific language impairment.

  • Provide assistance to teachers.

  • Engage students as partners, and have them paraphrase and keep a copy of their Individualized Education Programs. Ask students to track their own progress.

The second plenary speaker was Judy Montgomery, an SLP and professor of special education at Chapman University in Orange, CA, who addressed the role of evidence-based practice (EBP) in school settings.
Evidence-based practice, as defined by ASHA (2005) is “an approach in which current high-quality research evidence is integrated with practitioner expertise and client preferences and values into the process of making clinical decisions.”
The knowledge bases for intervention are of three types, Montgomery said:
  • Literature/theory-based (position papers, policy analysis, descriptive reviews of literature

  • Research-based (peer-reviewed studies with appropriate design that address cause and effect and can be replicated)

  • Practice-based (promising practices, model programs, professional wisdom, action research, implicit effectiveness due to wise use)

Measures that would build support for EBP in the schools include increased research-based support in the Clinical Fellowship; more clinical practice guidelines; and the availability of “critically appraised topics,” brief one-page reviews of what works.
If she were practicing today, Montgomery said she would move to the workload model, work with an SLP assistant who knows her students, and use a responsiveness-to-intervention (RTI) approach.
What else? She would keep track of her dismissal rate, use short-term interventions and progress monitoring, attend curriculum meetings once a month; run an Articulation Resource Center, have three computers in her classroom, assign students home treatment programs that she would monitor online, and go to three excellent professional development events each year.
“And don’t forget to hold onto your ‘best stuff,’” Montgomery advised. For her that would mean, for example, continuing a fifth grade social studies collaboration, and the “Turtle Club” (kids with fluency problems who practice speaking and walking more slowly).
Next on the podium with her perspective on “Vision and Values” was Nickola Nelson, the Charles Van Riper Professor at Western Michigan University. Nelson, who continues her work in school settings, offered a list of “Be-Attitudes”-guidance on transitions and what works for her in school-based settings.
Among her suggestions are the following:
  • Be able to recognize the need to learn from others, and reap the advantages of being a true member of the system

  • Be willing to give up aspects of old roles while preparing to assume new ones

  • Be vigilant for ways to do things “right” without getting mired in paperwork

  • Be willing to give up some control of the treatment room to gain access to benefits of the classroom-based service delivery models

  • Be focused on pure motives, guided by questions about what students need to be able to do to succeed in school

  • Be willing to take risks for students in trouble

  • Be ready to forgive yourself and others for not being perfect-it won’t happen

A Few Things Done Well
Wayne Secord, luncheon plenary speaker, wowed the audience with impeccable comic timing, self-deprecating humor, and droll images of animals-and himself-to make some very serious points.
Secord, senior research scientist in the department of speech and hearing at The Ohio State University, spoke on “Instructional Leadership: A Vision for Excellence and Change.”
Educational leadership is built on a strong foundation of bedrock beliefs, risk-taking, a strong social conscience, seriousness of purpose, situational mastery, and a vision for excellence and change, he said.
According to Secord, the legendary Charles Van Riper had clear bedrock beliefs. Among them: understand the nature of the disorder, assessment should focus on functional skills, prioritize the most important skills or behaviors/skills, motivate the client to use new behaviors, put a system in place to support the client; and observe and track performance.
Secord’s personal bedrock beliefs are the following:
  • Good seeds grow in good cultures

  • Consultation and collaboration provide the leverage needed for success

  • Indirect services reach more children

  • Do a few things well

Effective schools and clinics have a vision of excellence that usually includes an attitude that every child can learn, and emphasizes shared responsibility for students, professional collegiality, instructional leadership, teamwork, and parent/family involvement. Putting your vision in place takes “a philosophy, faith, and courage,” Secord said. Identifying the components of each is important; philosophy, for example, can include evidence-based practice, systems-based thinking, and a mission focused on others. Faith covers your bedrock beliefs and vision, and courage means taking risks and asking: “What if that were my child?”
As a closing example of the importance of having a vision, he talked about Seabiscuit, the unlikely champion racehorse. Quoting the protagonist in the movie, Secord said, “‘We thought we’d found this broken-down horse and we would fix it. What I learned is that they fix us. We fix each other.’”
Hot Topics
Participants had a rich list of educational offerings, including sessions on workload, RTI, childhood apraxia, written language assessment, evidence-based interventions in vocabulary development, neurotoxicants and children, augmentative and alternative communication, stuttering, bilingual and multicultural issues, private practice, and a host of other topics. (Articles based on conference sessions on neurotoxicants, stuttering, dysphagia, and multicultural issues in school settings are included elsewhere in this issue.)
The session content had practical application. As participant M. Katherine Miller noted, “I’ll use the wealth of information and resources provided when planning future staff developments and individual staff assistance for my district staff.”
Some of the hottest session topics, rated by attendance, were workload, vocabulary development, written language assessment, and childhood apraxia of speech.
Larry Biehl, a member of the ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on Caseload Size, presented the workload perspective on speech-language pathology services in the schools, which considers the clinician’s total responsibilities and work activities, not simply the caseload size. Average caseloads now stand at 48, in contrast to ASHA’s recommended maximum of 40. Some state policies allow up to 80, and SLPs have reported caseloads of more than 100 students.
ASHA’s emphasis on “workload” seeks to reframe the way SLPs’ time is viewed by school administrators, and depends on clinician’s understanding this concept and documenting the continuum of services offered in the schools. Biehl reviewed ASHA’s documents and offered examples that incorporate the workload approach.
In the session, “Vocabulary Development: Evidence-Based Interventions,” Judy Montgomery reviewed the scientifically based research on vocabulary instruction and discussed how to acquire new evidence-based practices to teach students with limited vocabulary skills.
The ever-popular roundtable discussions on dozens of hot topics-autism, RTI, culturally and linguistically diverse students, private practice, getting a PhD, cochlear implants, to mention only a few-prompted lively discussions over the fine points of practice as clinicians shared their ideas with their colleagues and facilitators with clinical expertise.
The final day of the conference featured 56 poster presentations that highlighted clinical research and program data in a wide range of areas including classroom amplification, emergent literacy, school clubs for students with communication disorders, cleft palate, telepractice, images of children with communication disorders in fiction, and many more.
Lessons From Native America
After a full day of attending sessions and networking with colleagues, a crowd of 264 participants enjoyed dessert and a dramatic evening of performances by world-class Native American dancers sponsored by the ASHFoundation. The ticketed event raised over $3,000 for scholarships and research grant programs.
At the closing plenary, Barbara Ehren brought together the Native American reverence for nature and guidelines for an action plan based on what participants learned at the conference in her address, “Drawing Wisdom and Strength From the Forces of Nature.”
“We’re meant to be the distributor of energy on this earth,” she said. The traditional forces of nature-earth, wind, fire, and water-“can nourish you and keep you strong in your commitment.”
She challenged participants to apply their learning from the conference to develop “action research,” which is inquiry or research in the context of focused efforts to improve the quality of an organization and its performance.
There are five phases to action research: 1) problem identification, 2) plan of action, 3) data collection, 4) analysis of data, and 5) plan for future action. In each phase, clinicians should probe with questions about how they should proceed once problems are identified.
“Begin with what you would like to improve,” Ehren said. Referring to the power of nature as it affects one’s profession, she added, “certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.”
Watch The ASHA Leader and for details on Schools 2007, which will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and adjoining Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA, on July 13–15, 2007.
Schools 2006 Sponsors
  • AGS Publishing/Pearson Assessments

  • Progressus Therapy

  • EBS Healthcare

  • Thomson Delmar Learning

  • Super Duper Publications

Special Interest Divisions
  • Division 1-Language Learning and Education

  • Division 12-Augmentative and Alternative Communication

  • Division 13-Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia)

  • Division 14-Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Populations

  • Division 16-School-Based Issues

Focus on Divisions

Division 16, School-Based Issues focuses on professional issues for speech-language pathologists working in the school environment. The Division offers affiliates the opportunity to earn CEUs through self-study of the Division publication, Perspectives (published four times annually), an exclusive e-mail list and Web forum, and other benefits. Visit Division 16, School-Based Issues to learn more about Division 16.

Division 1, Language Learning and Education focuses on research and professional issues related to normal and disordered language learning and education, including intervention and treatment of the school-aged population. The Division offers affiliates the opportunity to earn CEUs through self-study of the Division publication, Perspectives (published three times annually), an exclusive e-mail list and Web forum, and other benefits. Visit Division 1, Language Learning and Education to learn more about Division 1.

Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Comment Title

This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
September 2006
Volume 11, Issue 13