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AAC Achievement Award
Hank Poore
Hank is an inspirational, amazing young man who is also a long-time AAC user. He has used various AAC systems (with various access methods) over the years. He is truly a remarkable AAC user, in that he most often uses his toes to directly access a text-based system on a phone or iPad. He will also soon be using eye gaze to access a Tobii I series device. Hank has never let his disabilities hinder his motivation to succeed in life. He has accomplished so much at his young age of 20, more than most of us who are at least double his age!! He’s a marathoner and a long-distance cyclist (he completed a 160 mile bike ride with a friend in 2019 in the mountains of Colorado to raise awareness for the inclusion of disabled athletes).  He has volunteered as a Camper Buddy at Camp McDowell the past 4 summers.  AND he also works 2 nights a week at Urban Cookhouse and has worked there for over 2 years!!  He is now the Co-Founder/Director of The Hank Poore Foundation. His foundation is a non-profit organization through which he hopes to provide rewarding opportunities to others with disabilities. He also guest lectures in the Augmentative/Alternative Communication graduate course at the University of Alabama each year.  The grad students love engaging in conversation and his quick wit is unforgettable!  Though he is an Auburn fan, he doesn’t mind sharing his experiences and knowledge with the students.  He was also invited to present at the Journey of Hope at United Ability, and he also loves to blog!!!  Hank recently posted a quote by his friend Kevin that stated, “If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”  Hank is living proof that disabilities do not have to stop anyone from achieving great things! And Hank Poore not only achieves great things – he makes doing it look damn good!

AAC Professional Award
Dianna Havard Penn
This award is presented to the individual who has distinguished herself in the area of AAC through contributions of awareness and/or training in the use of AAC.   Children’s Rehabilitation Service of Alabama, CRS, has been fortunate enough to have Dianna Havard Penn as a CRS SLP since April 2017.  With CRS, Dianna’s district includes both the CRS Montgomery and Opelika offices, as well as the surrounding 14 counties in her district.  She coordinates the Augmentative Communication Technology (ACT) clinics for these offices and provides training for families, SLPs, and teachers inside her district as well as through local and statewide trainings.  She also serves as an interdisciplinary team member in CRS Feeding Clinics, Cleft Palate Clinics, and various other specialty clinics.  During the COVID shutdown, she continued to work daily from home to schedule ACD deliveries and provide training for the families via remote means so that their communication would not be placed on hold.  Dianna’s passion for helping school system SLPs and school staff is rooted in her vast experience within the school system.  Prior to working with CRS she served students in the Autauga County, Pell City, and Huntsville City Public School systems, as well as Morgan County and Madison City Public Schools and Muscogee County Public Schools in Columbus, GA.  In her first job as an SLP she collaborated with a team of professionals to establish the first Autism Program for the Muscogee County School District. This initially involved only one classroom, but rapidly expanded into a comprehensive program, enabling the system to better meet the needs of students on the Autism Spectrum.  She has also worked with Restore therapy for over 10 years.  She has often provided augmentative communication evaluations for residents in skilled nursing facilities, travelling across the state to provide evaluations and training to staff, as well as completing the lengthy paperwork to obtain funding for these communication devices.  From September 2003 – June 2006 she served as a missionary SLP with Mission to the World in Sofia, Bulgaria as the Speech Language Pathologist Consultant for Saint Sofia Cerebral Palsy Children’s Hospital. She organized and led short-term medical projects; opened and operated a resource center for parents, therapists and teachers of children with disabilities; provided ongoing trainings in the areas of assistive technology for professionals, and families. She established a special needs resource center, Community Based Resource Center for Children with Disabilities, in the capital of Bulgaria, where parents, teachers and therapists received training on Evidence Based Practices and current assessment/treatment strategies.  Along with her church, Riverside Associated Reform Presbyterian Church, located in Prattville, Alabama, she assisted in the development of a special needs ministry called “Wonderfully Made”.  Wonderfully Made is a ministry to children with special-abilities and their families and is committed to providing community outreach and respite events throughout the year.  Throughout the year, Wonderfully Made events are directed towards educating their own congregation about the varying abilities of the human race and individual strengths which also serves to build a sense of community in the River Region. In 2016, Dianna provided a hands-on training, Wonderfully Made: Equipping the Church for Special Needs Ministry, for the members of Riverside Presbyterian Church in Prattville, Alabama. Participants engaged in activities that demonstrated the physical limitations of disabilities from a first-hand perspective and learned how to provide adaptations that would enable individuals to function more independently within community- based activities.  In 2018, Dianna and Riverside Presbyterian Church were nominated for and received the Montgomery Area Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities PARTNERSHIP OF THE YEAR award for their Wonderfully Made outreach program.  While COVID has limited their 2020 outreach, they still found a way to hold a Drive-Thru Back-to-School Bash in September to provide multiple activities while maintaining safety and social distancing protocol.  Dianna is an ASHA ACE Recipient (2014 & 2017) & most likely has another ACE waiting in the wings, however, collecting CEs for recognition is not a priority for her.  Providing assistance and knowledge through presentations to SLPs, families, school staff and community members regarding communication is her priority.  If you have ever attended one of her presentations, you know that you will come away with functional tools and information to use as soon as you return to your clients.  She strives to empower fellow SLPs with the knowledge that language therapy with a communication device is still language therapy.   She is always searching for new ways to provide assistance to communicators, their families, and SLPs.  She is innovative and always strives to find more ways to serve her clients and community.

Distinguished Service Award
Mitchell's Place
This award is presented to individuals, agencies, businesses, or organizations in recognition of significant and sustained contributions to the association that have resulted in an obvious improvement and increase in the association’s ability to serve it’s membership.  This year, the award goes to Mitchell’s Place.  Mitchell’s Place specializes in improving the lives of children affected by autism and other developmental disabilities.  They use quality diagnostic, educational and therapeutic services provided by highly skilled therapy teams to unlock each child’s potential.  These teams work to remediate social, communicative, adaptive and academic functioning while simultaneously reducing and decelerating maladaptive behavior.  

At Michell’s Place, they employ highly qualified and caring therapists, analysts and teachers to implement each child’s treatment and instruction.  They provide accurate and on-going assessment to create individualized and comprehensive treatment plans. In addition, they empower our parents with the specific skills essential to support their child’s learning.  Together, with dedicated parents and families, they are committed to unlocking each child’s potential with the aim of improving the quality of life for their clients and families.

Distinguished Clinical Achievement Award
Maria Spenney
This award is presented to an individual who has distinguished herself/himself in the area of clinical accomplishment.  Over her thirty year career, Maria has been a leader in establishing evidence based clinical curriculums in a variety of settings for a variety of professionals.  She serves as a Team Lead for the Stroke Team at Spain Rehab Center, where she has spearheaded a multidisciplinary approach to better serve the stroke population based on current clinical trends and research.  She compiled a stroke education binder for patients and their families to help them better understand the nature of their stroke and what to expect in their recovery process.  Maria has initiated and organized a Stroke Recovery Support Group to support this mission as well.  She has been a part of educating and orienting nurses and medicine residents at Spain Rehab Center, where she has represented the field of speech pathology and undoubtedly enhanced the perception of our profession.  She has supervised graduate students and CFYs consistently, and has provided her peers with oversight in clinical competence for procedures such as department-wide CPR certification, instrumental swallowing assessments, electrical stimulation, FIM scoring, suctioning, and tracheostomy care.  Perhaps her most significant contribution to UAB as an institution was her role in transitioning speech-language pathology patient medical records to an electronic format.  Maria spent months organizing and arranging screens to capture data from evaluations, treatment sessions, progress notes, and discharges to ensure a user friendly and data driven electronic model for other speech therapists.  The screens she created have been widely used as a reference by other departments within our facility as well.  A lifelong learner and teacher, it is not uncommon for Maria to forward Neurology/Swallowing/Anatomy/Biology/Research/Communication related podcasts and other lectures for her co-workers to review.  She is a member of several ASHA Special Interest Groups, and has encouraged monthly journal clubs and other formal meetings where research articles and evidence based findings and implementation strategies can be discussed. Her love for learning and teaching extends outside of her professions.  She patiently teaches physical medicine and rehabilitation medical residents as they rotate through different services. Medical residents leave UAB Spain Rehab with a deep appreciation for speech-language pathology,  and enter the medical field as advocates for our services because of her teaching and love for the profession.

Maria has been practicing speech-language pathology for three decades, yet she still manages to find unique ways to create a plan of care combining evidence based protocols with patient specific compassion.  Her approaches to treatment goals are detailed, while being holistic and functional.  Her interactions with family members are direct and truthful, yet punctuated by kindness and empathy.  And a plan of care for her speech therapy treatment sessions is a reliable mix of clinical experience, patient-centered attention, and firmly grounded scientific research.  It is no surprise that she has been visited by former patients and their families years after they have been discharged from her services.  Patients remember her not just for her humanity, but for her clinical expertise that promoted their recovery.

Which brings us to 2021.  In a clinical climate that is increasingly fluid and unpredictable, Maria’s quiet and steady clinical confidence has been the glue that has held patients, families and the UAB speech pathologists together.  She has designed innovative processes to address patients with dysphagia, aphasia and cognitive deficits while honoring the now-common social distancing restrictions we find in healthcare.  She has established methods to promote contactless language stimulation tasks, dysphagia exercises, and cognitive re-education activities that still encourage a personal experience.  Her flexibility in creating accommodations during this challenging chapter in healthcare has been essential to promote patient safety, without compromising the positive effects of an evidence based speech therapy session.

Loretta G. Brown Annual Award
Sarah Jackson
This award 
recognizes an individual who has had distinguished career in the provision of services and the support of speech language pathology and/or audiology in the schools.  Sarah Jackson, speech-language pathologist at Cherokee Bend Elementary School, has been working as an SLP in the Mountain Brook School System since 2012. However, upon meeting Sarah and working with her, she conveys the expertise and leadership skills that make you feel that she has been in this role for a lifetime! Sarah is an innovator, a team player, a compassionate therapist, and a skilled clinician. She has served on multiple leadership teams and committees within her school and district. She has been the Lead Teacher for her school’s Special Education Team. SLPs are not traditionally selected as “special education lead teachers”, but Sarah is so involved in her school’s culture, that administration and coworkers recognized her strengths. Sarah is currently the Lead SLP for the district, keeping fellow SLPs informed and connected across six different campuses. She is also a District Cohort leader, which means she facilitates district wide collaboration and goal setting opportunities with her cohort (made up of employees across the district in varying positions including CNP workers, administrators, coaches, teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, etc.).  Sarah and her school special education team were recently awarded a grant to create two sensory rooms in their school. As part of the application process, Sarah had to document the ways in which such a room would support her students and their communication needs. This team effort has truly changed the culture of their school. Clearly, Sarah’s leadership and service experience speaks for itself! She is a team player and strong leader. This led her school and district to nominate her as the Teacher of the Year for Mountain Brook Schools for the 2020-21 school year! What a well-deserved honor and how wonderful that an SLP has achieved this deserved recognition.

Sarah’s strengths as a speech language pathologist cannot be forgotten in all the leadership examples. She is truly an innovative clinician! Sarah is tech savvy, organized, creative—and above all—caring! She gets to know her students and learns what helps them succeed the most. As part of her Teacher of the Year application, she was asked several questions that revealed her heart as a therapist. Most notably, Sarah explained “in order to engage our students, to reach them where they are, we must truly know their hearts, their likes, their dislikes and everything in between.” This drives her therapy and helps her connect with her students—many of which require social, emotional, and behavioral support in addition to speech and language support. Sarah feels passionate about connecting her students to the world around them. Whether working on social goals, articulation goals, or facilitating therapy for a user with a complex communication disorder that uses an AAC device, she strives to be creative and to break down barriers that communication disorders can naturally create. Sarah is a continual learner and is constantly participating in professional development opportunities. She is a member of SHAA and a faithful attendee at SHAA’s annual convention. She is a wonderful example of a speech language pathologist in the school setting who goes above and beyond her “therapy room” to create connections with her students, her team, her school, and beyond.

Honors of the Association
Dr. Gary Edwards

This award recognizes an individual whose contributions to the discipline of human communication sciences and disorders has been of such magnitude that her impact on the discipline and the professions of speech language pathology and audiology through clinical practice, teaching, research, administration and legislative activity are recognized throughout the professional community. The individual who nominated Dr. Edwards noted, “ I have had the fortune of being employed by United Ability for over 20 years now as a speech-language pathologist.  In those years, I have been honored to work with and for one of the most honorable men ever known.  He was not a speech pathologist, but he had a passion for empowering individuals with disabilities with the gift of communication.   Dr. Gary Edwards was the chief executive officer of United Ability (formerly United Cerebral Palsy) until the day of his passing in June of 2020.” 

There would be no way to measure the enormous impact that Dr. Edwards has had on this community.  He has always been an advocate for providing Augmentative/Alternative Communication access to individuals with disabilities since the early 1980s and made it possible for our region to host the Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference for 20 years.  He devoted his entire professional life to serving adults and children with disabilities and ensuring that they had proper medical and therapeutic support.  “Dr. E” was entirely committed to United Ability’s mission of “connecting people with disabilities to their communities and empowering individuals to live full and meaningful lives.”  He knew how critical communication was to this mission statement and he would take time to get to know all of the SLPs that worked at United Ability and make sure that we were as passionate about empowering these individuals with communication as he was. 

Dr. Edwards continued to champion communication in early years with the coordination of Alabama’s Early Intervention Conference.  He was passionate regarding the newest technology that made communication faster and with better access and would bring in both individuals with new technology to trial with participants at United Ability.  He was committed to the training of speech-language pathologists and encouraged all SLP’s at United Ability to take and train students as often as possible.  Dr. Edwards truly understood the mission, need, and value of the profession of speech-language pathology.

Certificate of Appreciation
Dr. Carol Koch
Amanda Sutter
Maureen Huseman

Scholarship Awards
Laikin Spraggins - Alabama A&M University
Laikin intends to work in the public school system after graduation.  She would like to eventually open a private practice serving various populations.  The Alabama A & M University CSD Faculty chose Laikin for this award because she is a wonderful student and  an excellent clinician, consistently performing at the top of her cohort.  

Lauren Allison - Auburn University
Lauren greatly values the nexus of research and clinical experiences. She is currently enjoying her internship rotation in an adult acute care hospital setting while finalizing her thesis project. She has co-authored five published research papers and has received the following research awards: ASHA Meritorious Poster Award (2020), Undergraduate Research Fellow (2017-2018), Research Student Symposium College Award (2019), and Progeny Undergraduate First Author Award (2018). Lauren also values volunteering outside of academic experiences and has traveled to Managua, Nicaragua four times to serve local communities through home construction and water distribution.

Aliyah Simmons-Faulkner University
Aliyah is from Anniston, AL. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Auburn University at Montgomery in the spring of 2020. She is now a second semester graduate student at Faulkner University. Aliyah has chosen to complete her master thesis on Cerebral Palsy. In her free time, she enjoys watching Netflix and hanging out with family and friends. Aliyah is a lifetime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. She also holds the Treasurer position on Faulkner’s NSSLHA executive board. Aliyah looks forward to completing her coursework and receiving a Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She is currently interested in working with the adult population but loves pediatrics as well.

D'Essence Hampton-Samford University
Essence is a current 3rd year student in the Doctor of Audiology program at Samford.  She holds numerous memberships with various organizations including SHAA, SUNSSLHA, SAA, SADA, ASHA, NBASLH, and MSLP, among others.  She serves as the program’s liaison for SADA as well as serving on NBHASLH’s Public Relations committee. While facing challenges with work-life-school balance in Spring 2020, coupled with academic and clinical transitions brought on by COVID-19, D’Essence emerged as a purposeful, dedicated, and resourceful student and leader.  She has matured into an outstanding professional student-clinician evident by her receiving several notable clinical-fellowship offers.   One of her preceptors indicated that “D’Essence has demonstrated ambition and maturity during her time with us.  She is genuinely interested in developing her skills and challenging her own abilities. She has impressed me with her calm and calculated attitude.  She always shows kindness towards her patients and keeps a positive attitude during fast-paced clinic days.  She is definitely deserving of the most outstanding graduate award.” These glowing comments as well as her numerous CF offers highlight her passion, her calling, and growth clinically, professionally, and personally, during her time in Samford University’s Doctor of Audiology program.

Jessica Mann-University of Alabama
Jessica is a second year graduate student in speech language pathology at The University of Alabama. She is from Athol, Massachusetts and completed her undergraduate degree at Emerson College. She plans to work with adults with neurogenic communication disorders after graduation this spring.

Mary Caitlyn Schultz-University of Montevallo
Caitlyn was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  After teaching Kindergarten for two years, she decided to pursue a Masters in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Montevallo. Mary Caitlyn has a 4.0 GPA and is interested in working acute care when she graduates.

Abigail Askew-University of South Alabama
Abi Askew is a 4th year audiology student from University of South Alabama. Abi is from Arlington, Georgia. She received her Bachelors in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Valdosta State University.  Abi is currently doing her 4th year externship at Georgia  Hearing Institute in Macon, Georgia where she will continue working after graduation.

Student Membership Award
Samford University

SHAA also awards a graduate student in the field of speech language pathology and a graduate student in audiology a $500 Memorial Scholarship which was established in 2008. 

Outstanding Audiology Student
D'Essence Hampton-Samford University
Essence is a graduate student in audiology at Samford University.  She will graduate in 2022.  As a young African-American woman, D’Essence and a first generation college student, she has felt the pressures of often being a minority in any group, organization and classroom.  Her goal is to use this scholarship and the field of Audiology to help others but to also create social media platforms to enhance awareness of minority based organizations and outlets.  She also would like to increase awareness of these resources at SHAA and in predominantly minority based high schools to help students expand their career options.  

Outstanding SLP Student
MaKayla Stubblefield-Samford University
MaKayla is a graduate student from Samford University. She will graduate in 2022.  MaKayla grew up in a small rural town and while in college realized the need for advocacy and parent education.  She currently works for a local private practice as their parent advocate.  She assists in running all social media for the company, answers messages and calls from concerned parents and assists in expanding the private practice’s reach for clients. She would utilize SHAA to help her expand her community outreach through social media and tap into rural communities that need the education and services they would not otherwise access.

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