Schools Conference Puts Clinicians in The Winners Circle Putting Evidence-Based Practice into Action ASHA News
ASHA News  |   September 01, 2005
Schools Conference Puts Clinicians in The Winners Circle
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   September 01, 2005
Schools Conference Puts Clinicians in The Winners Circle
The ASHA Leader, September 2005, Vol. 10, 22-24. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.10132005.22
The ASHA Leader, September 2005, Vol. 10, 22-24. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.10132005.22
The ASHA Schools Conference set records in Indy as the largest-ever conference with 752 participants, 50 companies exhibiting, and 32 poster sessions on a range of topics. Participants wrote 200 letters to Congress expressing their concerns about the IDEA regulations, and 115 participants attended the sold-out benefit at the Children’s Museum for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. But most important of all, clinicians had the opportunity to network with colleagues, enjoy the summer, and prepare for the upcoming school year.
In the city where Janet Guthrie became the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 by combining the science of engineering with a passion for race car driving, participants at the 2005 ASHA Schools Conference were challenged to engage in evidence-based practice (EBP) by combining research evidence with a passion for serving children in the schools.
Kicking off the July 8-10 conference, ASHA President Dolores Battle urged participants to think clinically about school-based services. “The goal is to get results that can be measured so that no child will be left behind,” she said.
Throughout the conference, participants saw evidence-based decision making at work during sessions that provided the latest information on clinical hot topics, including prelinguistic milieu teaching, differentiated instruction, velopharyngeal dysfunction, fluency, language intervention programs, and transition of students with disabilities. They learned a pragmatic, step-by-step process to incorporate EBP into their work and the culture of their school systems. They also got the latest updates on the unfolding regulatory process for the Individuals With Disabilities Act-and wrote 200 letters to the U.S. Department of Education.
Important Outcomes
But beyond the regulations and evidence-based interventions was a reminder that working in the schools brings outcomes that can’t be measured-or even seen immediately.
“You have the opportunity and the ability to make change and affect the lives of children every day,” said Lee Reeves, a veterinarian who founded a support group that became an affiliate of the National Stuttering Project. During a luncheon presentation that drew a standing ovation, Reeves paid tribute to an SLP who was unaware that she had a profound influence on his life, just through the course of her everyday work, until he thanked her 25 years later.
The outcomes of fluency treatment can’t always be measured in terms of a reduction of stuttering, Reeves said. “You can’t fix students. Instead, you can stabilize the stuttering and create an environment in which people can heal themselves.”
Social Communication
For students of all ages, social communication skills play a major role in the ability to form relationships-but acquiring these skills is a challenge for students with social learning disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders and Asperger’s syndrome, said Emily Rubin, who is the director of Communication Crossroads in Carmel, CA.
“The variable that predicts success is social competence, not IQ, or academic skills,” Rubin said. “Long-term outcomes research shows that limitation in social-communicative competence compromises the ability to adjust to new social demands in both academic and community settings.”
In a session on “Designing Learning Supports for Students with Social Learning Disabilities,” Rubin outlined the critical variables that need to be considered in developing educational objectives for students with social learning disabilities and shared case studies of strategies to help students achieve their goals.
Children with social learning disabilities, such as Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism, are often denied services because of their high intellectual and cognitive functioning, Rubin said. “We need to secure early and intensive educational services to address the gap between proficiency in language and cognitive skills and socio-adaptive functioning,” she said. “We can’t wait until academics fail. These students are at risk for depression and anxiety as they reach high school.”
To assist clinicians, children, and families, Rubin and colleagues developed the SCERTS model (Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, Transactional Support) which is a curriculum for transactional support that places an equal emphasis on students with a social learning disability and their communication partners.
To illustrate how the model works, consider the difficulty students with high functioning autism have in taking in the entirety of the social situation. “They have a very literal interpretation and they don’t make inferences,” Rubin said. When communicating with these students, partners need to be explicit about their intentions and nonverbal cues.
Technology such as camcorders and digital cameras also play a key role in treatment, Rubin said. Children were filmed during interactions, and the video was edited to capture a positive interaction, which was an invaluable learning tool and source of emotional support. “When you show all the ways that they succeeded, it can have an impact,” she said.
An Appropriate Education
Tom Ehren explored the nexus of evidence-based practice and the laws and regulations that provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and offered a rubric to implement EBP practices in the context of developing an individualized education plan.
IDEA 2004 is “serving up a new menu for FAPE,” Ehren said. States must now specify a timeline for an evaluation, and the regulations give more weight to identification and evaluation. IDEA ‘04 also strengthens the parent’s right to reject the initial evaluation.
Ehren also reviewed major legal opinions that provide operational definitions for complex concepts. A review of recent legal decisions highlights the need for SLPs to avoid procedural omissions, ensure parental participation in the IEP process, focus on appropriate education, establish integrated, balanced programs, and document educational benefit.
Both legislation and litigation form the context in which evidence-based decision making takes place. In the schools, EBP takes into consideration various combinations of three key components-current best evidence, clinical expertise, and client values-at each juncture in the IEP process.
An Unforgettable Evening
After a day of sessions, clinicians indulged in a special “after hours” reception at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis to benefit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. At the sold-out event, 115 participants had the opportunity to network with colleagues as they explored the largest exhibit ever created of Norman Rockwell’s work in the Saturday Evening Post.
The final day of the conference featured 32 poster presentations that highlighted clinical research and program data emerging from the schools in a wide variety of areas, including induction programs for new school-based SLPs, social skills of children with limited intelligibility, adolescent language sampling, bilingual assessment and development, and language sample analysis.
A poster presented by Lena Caesar of Andrews University in Michigan highlighted a survey of 409 school-based SLPs in the state of Michigan that gathered information about their perceptions of graduate training in bilingual assessment. “The top 10 formal assessment procedures used with monolingual and bilingual students are exactly the same, with 75 % indicating English as the test language most frequently employed. I asked them to indicate whether they were using an interpreter, and more than 50% said no,” Caesar noted. “Bilingual children may not be appropriately placed because SLPs are not trained or knowledgeable.”
Participants also enjoyed the ever-popular roundtable discussions where they discussed topics that ranged from autism and literacy to workload, and salary supplements.
The Winner’s Circle
Closing the conference, the Divas + One Players, Barbara Ehren, Bonnie Singer, and Kenn Apel and their alter egos-Sharon Stone, Brad Pitt, and Michelle Pfeiffer-made their third performance at an ASHA conference.
“Being involved in EBP is an all-star challenge-you qualify,” Barbara Ehren told participants. They opened their toolbox to give participants strategies to become involved:
  • Give your racing strategy a lot of thought. “You have to make a specific plan,” Ehren said.

  • Spring into action and have your act together,” “We need to collect our own data,” Ehren said. “Don’t wait for people to ask you for it.’

  • Know the ins and outs of your school district, as well as the local, state, and federal regulatory requirements.

Most of all, recruit new drivers. “Continue to seek out EBP so you can own it. EBP will get easier the more you do it,” Singer said. With these tips in mind, participants headed to the winner’s circle, singing and clapping to the Beatles’ “Drive My Car.”
Schools 2005 was sponsored by AGS Publishing, EBS Healthcare, Progressus Therapy, Subaru, Thinking Publications, and Thompson Delmar Learning. Sponsors also included ASHA Special Interest Division 1, Language Learning and Education, and Special Interest Division 16, School-Based Issues.
Watch The ASHA Leader and the ASHA Web site for details on Schools 2006, which will be held July 14–16 in Phoenix at the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa.
Schools Conference Anthology
If you couldn’t attend the conference, don’t miss the information. The ASHA Schools 2005 Anthology is a 526-page compendium of conference related material, including the agenda, speaker handouts, a description of poster sessions, and ASHA resources. Contact ASHA Product Sales at 888-498-6699 for more information, or visit the Products Catalog online.
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September 2005
Volume 10, Issue 13