The November Superblog: the ASHA Convention and More!

Well this is…. uh…. embarrassing. First, let me apologize for the lengthy absence. November has been a crazy month for many of us – and mine was no different. This month, I turned 23 years old, was down for a week thanks to food poisoning, finished my first semester of therapy and spent an incredible weekend in Chicago for the ASHA Convention. I feel like I haven’t stopped moving since November began so Thanksgiving Break is a necessary reprieve for me!

So let’s backtrack to the beginning two weeks of November before diving into the ASHA Convention and today’s CoRP meeting. Both Nov. 1st and 8th were valuable meetings – primarily for those who were presenting at the Convention but also for people like me who are fairly new to research practices. During both meetings, we divided into small groups and dissected posters and presentations. I’ve talked before about the importance of peer editing and these meetings really confirmed their value. Between the small groups, we all found different things that could be improved with some fine tuning. Ultimately, I believe everybody benefited from the experiences and the presentations were strengthened as a result.

Before we knew it, the weekend of the ASHA Convention was upon us! More than 30 Marshall students and faculty traveled to Chicago – by planes, trains and automobiles (hah, movie references!). I personally rode the Amtrak train from Huntington to Chicago which ended up taking over 13 hours. It was an… interesting experience. I’m glad I did it but I’m not sure that I would do it again. My group finally arrived in Chicago around 12:30 PM due to some delays. After eating lunch and getting settled, we made it to the convention around 2:30. After an exhausting tour of the exhibit hall – in which we all received great freebies including shirts and a laptop bag – we attended our first session which dealt with aphasia. By this time, we were all exhausted so we returned to our hotel and made plans for dinner. We ended up walking to a highly recommended Italian restaurant called Pizano’s. We got to see most of the Chicago skyline along the way and the food/service at Pizano’s was astounding! I’m worried I’ll never eat anywhere nearly as good as Pizano’s now! After an incredible dinner, we walked back to our hotel and went separate ways. I decided to go straight to bed after such an exhausting day!

Pizano’s menu; I highly recommend this restaurant if you visit Chicago!
I loved the architecture of Chicago’s older buildings








After some of the best sleep I’ve had in years, I woke up around 7am to get ready. Hilliary Johnson, Jordan Lewis and I made it to the convention center just in time to catch Craig Coleman’s presentation on Community-Centered Stuttering Intervention. The 2-hour long presentation went by quickly as Craig discussed this fairly new approach to fluency therapy. I had never heard about it before so it was nice to gain some insight. The audience seemed engaged, as well; many questions were asked! Following a quick breakfast, we took a quick tour of the exhibit hall once more. While there, we found a company that made thickener for liquids. They had a fountain that was pouring out thickened wine! We all tried it and it actually wasn’t bad! Afterwards, the three of us attended another session which discussed a traumatic brain injury case study and how relationships impact recovery. The 3 presenters were engaging and held our interested as well.

The thickened wine fountain

We took a necessary break for the next 3 hours to walk down to Lake Michigan and then explore the Field Museum. Prior to our arrival in Chicago, all I talked about was going to the museum to see the dinosaurs. In fact, they had the largest tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever recovered! We couldn’t have had more perfect weather to walk along the lake as we made our way to the Field Museum. It was cool but not freezing; the wind was virtually nonexistent. The Field Museum was not a letdown either! It was fairly priced, spacious enough to never feel crowded and the exhibits were fascinating. It was a great way to relax for a bit while still getting new experiences.

Our view as we walked to the Field Museum. Chicago was beautiful!
Sue – the largest T-Rex skeleton ever found fully intact! As a huge dino nerd, I was in heaven.

We returned to the convention center just in time for the 3pm sessions. Unfortunately, the session I wanted to attend – which discussed swallowing disorders in children with cleft palates – was crammed full. Jordan and Hilliary stayed but I decided to explore the exhibits a bit more. I briefly talked to a man from Alaska about job opportunities for SLPs in the area. Anybody who knows me well knows my obsession with Alaska so this was a great opportunity for me! Afterwards, I returned to the hotel to relax and plan our travel route for the evening. The three of us ended up going to Macy’s to see the Christmas decorations that Dr. Frank had raved about. She definitely didn’t exaggerate their beauty! Following that, we went to Millennium Park to see the Cloud Gate. While there, Jordan and Hilliary ice skated which they enjoyed greatly. Along the way, we got to see even more of Chicago’s beautiful downtown.

Macy’s storefront was triumphant, to say the least!
So many people were enjoying the opportunity to ice skate. It was a joy to watch

Saturday was an abbreviated day for those of us who traveled by train. Hilliary and Jordan, along with Dr. McComas, Sara Henson and Megan Foster, presented their poster in the morning. I walked by many times to see them all talking to different people who were intrigued by their research and findings. It was great to see such an interest after their hard work! Hilliary and Megan then went on to present a poster with Craig Coleman while Jordan, Sara and I went to my favorite session of the week. Titled “The Restorative Power of Music for a Jazz Musician with Global Aphasia: Life Participation Restored,” the session chronicled the recovery process of renowned jazz trumpeter Louis Smith. Having suffered from a stroke that left him with the devastating Global Aphasia, Mr. Smith was unable to speak or continue playing trumpet. However, due to his hard work, the strength and love of his wife and the astounding determination of the therapists that worked alongside them, Mr. Smith has been making improvements and is able to play trumpet again! We were treated to 3 live performances by Mr. Smith at the end of the session. It was one of the most touching experiences of my life and is something I will never forget.

It may be difficult to see but Mr. Smith (front and center) is playing trumpet here. It was beautiful to hear!

Following this session, the three of us rushed to meet Hilliary and Megan at the shuttle. We ate lunch, grabbed our bags and made our way to the train station. A 13-hour long ride later, we were back home exhausted but full of excitement from all the things we saw, discussed and heard!

During today’s CoRP meeting, we began with a presentation by Jordan WilliamsJordan has been conducting an independent study with Mrs. Miller. Her focus has been on patients that have undergone a hemispherectomy – a procedure in which a portion, or entire, hemisphere of the brain is removed. Using a unique case study and other research articles, Jordan noted the inconsistencies between each article. From here, Jordan wishes to take her research even further in an attempt to explain, or better understand, these discrepancies between hemispherectomy patients. Following her presentation, we spent the rest of our time discussing what we liked and disliked from the convention. Overall, we all had a great time and learned a lot!

Again, I want to apologize for my absence this month. Hopefully this monstrous blog can begin to make up for that! As I’m sure you can tell, the ASHA Convention was a great time that I would recommend to any current or future SLP or audiologist. I learned a lot and it’s a great way to make contacts with other professionals. But that’s it for now! I hope you all have a fantastic and safe Thanksgiving! See you in December and, as always, thanks for reading!