20th Annual Communication Awards Honor Personal, Professional Achievements More than 400 people gathered last month in Washington, DC, to honor and celebrate the recipients of the 20th Annual Communication Awards. Held March 14 at the Kennedy Center, the awards ceremony offered both inspiration and entertainment. The evening’s honorees included a country singer, a senator, an artist, an author, ... ASHA News
ASHA News  |   April 01, 2002
20th Annual Communication Awards Honor Personal, Professional Achievements
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Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Fluency Disorders / Hearing Disorders / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / School-Based Settings / Speech, Voice & Prosody / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   April 01, 2002
20th Annual Communication Awards Honor Personal, Professional Achievements
The ASHA Leader, April 2002, Vol. 7, 9-10. doi:10.1044/leader.AN2.07082002.9
The ASHA Leader, April 2002, Vol. 7, 9-10. doi:10.1044/leader.AN2.07082002.9
More than 400 people gathered last month in Washington, DC, to honor and celebrate the recipients of the 20th Annual Communication Awards. Held March 14 at the Kennedy Center, the awards ceremony offered both inspiration and entertainment. The evening’s honorees included a country singer, a senator, an artist, an author, a student, a journalist, a choir director, an advocate, a Broadway performer, and a team of professionals who help students use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.
More than 350 participants representing all 50 states and 13 foreign countries have been part of the 20-year history of the Communication Awards—a project of the National Council on Communicative Disorders—sponsored by ASHA and the National Association for Hearing and Speech Action.
Johnny Bush
An award-winning country singer and composer in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bush found his career fading by the 1980s due to the effects of spasmodic dysphonia. But with the help of SLP Anat Keidar and a singing coach, Bush has regained his voice and his career and again earns glowing reviews.
After treating the audience to several songs, Bush accepted his award from Annie Glenn, saying, “If I couldn’t talk before, believe me I can’t now!” Bush explained that it is important to him to share information about spasmodic dysphonia and to help others “who don’t know what’s going on in their throat.” The “Annie” award includes a $2,500 scholarship to a student of the recipient’s choice. Bush selected Long Island University graduate student Christine Radman, who was also a professional singer when she developed spasmodic dysphonia.
Taro Alexander
The Charles Van Riper Award recognizes the achievements of individuals who have known the anguish of stuttering and the success of achieving effective communication. Alexander has stuttered since he was 5 and spent most of his life ashamed and “not saying what I wanted to say.” But he found his voice through the performing arts and is now in the Broadway cast of “Stomp.” He spends his free time sharing his experiences and talents with others, founding the Our Time Theatre Company to bring together New York high school students who stutter to learn acting, writing, dance, singing and drumming. “We make our stories come to life using our own words, in our own time,” Alexander explained.
Accepting his award from Charles Van Riper’s son, John, Alexander thanked Charles—a pioneer in the area of stuttering—and vowed to continue in his spirit. Later in the ceremony, Alexander returned to the stage with a few friends to perform a rousing number from “Stomp.”
Keplinger, a young artist who has cerebral palsy, wrote the 1999 autobiographical Oscar-winning documentary, “King Gimp.” Susan Hadary and Bill Whiteford, the film’s producers, shared clips of the film with the audience, showing many sides of Keplinger—as painter, college student, skier, and party goer.
Accepting his award from Hadary and Whiteford, Keplinger said, “Communication is much more than what’s said in words. It’s how you hold your body, use facial expressions, or speak with your eyes.” He explained that he communicates his thoughts and feelings through his art. “If you look at my paintings, you know me. Just because a person cannot speak clearly does not mean they cannot communicate.”
C. Kelly Robinson
Robinson self-published his first novel in 1999 before it was re-released by Random House under the title Between Brothers . He also has used his creative talents to address one of his innermost struggles—stuttering. Robinson read the audience a passage from his short story “The Price,” concluding, “How many times had I withheld my valid opinions in a forum…because I knew the first speech block would invalidate what I had to say?”
Accepting his award from former astronaut and senator John Glenn, Robinson thanked his family and SLPs for teaching him that “you don’t have to speak perfectly to be a success.”
Carlos Aponte, Jr.
Aponte, who accepted the Youth Distinguished Achievement Award from his high school teacher Sandra Lausier, now studies psychology at Baruch College, but has left an abiding legacy at his New York high school. Among his many other high school activities, Aponte, who is deaf, founded Murray Bergtraum High School’s D.E.A.F. (Deafness Education and Awareness Through Friendship) Club, providing activities for deaf and hearing students to learn more about each other and improve their communication with each other. Although Aponte has now moved on to college, the club is still running strong.
Lordy Smith
Smith, who was born hard of hearing and now has little residual hearing, demonstrates great spirit and determination. A widowed mother of four, Smith works three jobs but still made time to found the Memphis Chapter of the National Black Deaf Advocates, serve on the board of the Tennessee Council for the Hearing-Impaired, teach sign language, serve as secretary of the Dixie Deaf Lutheran Conference, and participate in many other organizations and activities. She is also very active in her church, where she has served as choir director for the last 17 years.
Smith, who accepted her award from John Yeh, acknowledged help received from audiologists and told the audience there is “so much more I still want to accomplish.” Her goals include the creation of a deaf community center in Memphis and a retirement home for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or blind.
The Interdisciplinary Augmentative Communication and Technology Team (InterAct) began in Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools in 1983 with one part-time staff member. Today the team includes 14 people who use AAC devices to work with students who are severely limited in verbal or written expression. During the past school year, InterACT helped 375 students in more than 170 classrooms in 87 schools.
Introduced by former student Shadia El-Hage, the team includes SLPs Kathleen Abrams, Barbara Delsack, Mark Dexter, Vicky McKamy, Jacquelyn Moore, Beth Poss, and team leader Cynthia Weitz; occupational therapists Susan Corfman, Denise C. DeCoste, and Rebecca Mahoney; special educators Patti Fredericks and Marilyn Jacobs; and technical support assistants Linda Altomare and Lisa Carns.
Accepting on behalf of InterACT, Weitz pledged that the team will “continue to pursue our passion—finding a voice for those who cannot speak.”
Sharon Gretz
Gretz’s son was diagnosed with severe apraxia at age 3. Determined to help other kids and families affected by the disorder, Gretz founded a Pittsburgh parent group in 1995, then went on to launch the Apraxia-Kids Web community and found what is known today as the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA).
Tim Burns, the father of a child with apraxia, presented Gretz her award, proclaiming her an “inspiration to parents and nothing short of a blessing.”
She accepted, saying, “Nothing good, great, wonderful, or meaningful happens because of one person. All children have the opportunity to have a voice, and I accept this on behalf of all the families involved with CASANA.”
Sen. James M. Jeffords
ASHA Past President John Bernthal presented the Public Service in Government Award to Jeffords (I-VT). An original sponsor of the law now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Jeffords has spent years fighting legislative battles on behalf of America’s children with disabilities. He continues to fight for full funding of IDEA, and his non-legislative activities include creating a literacy program in Washington, DC, and tutoring every week at a Capitol Hill school.
“The opportunities that I have had to work with the disability community have been the most rewarding of my career,” Jeffords said as he accepted his award.
Rachel K. Sobel
Sobel, associate editor of U.S. News & World Report , received the Public Service in Media Award for her April 2, 2001, cover story, “Anatomy of a Stutter.” Kurt Salierno, an Atlanta man Sobel interviewed for the story and whose image appeared on the cover of the magazine, was unable to attend the ceremony but sent written remarks. He thanked Sobel for providing information “to the general public that will help improve the quality of life for those who stutter…In her writing, Ms. Sobel makes people aware of how it feels to stutter.” Accepting the award, Sobel said she is “in debt to those who opened up to me and to my readers.”
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April 2002
Volume 7, Issue 8