Barbara Shadden Interivew

Barbara Shadden ANCDS Interview

What led you to career as SLP?  My path to speech-language pathology was anything but direct. It began with a deep desire to become an MD, transitioned to psychology and a wish to pursue social work, and then an unexpected leap of faith into the world of speech-language pathology. I knew nothing about the field but remembered being fascinated by reading the work of Roman Jakobson on the nature of this strange thing called aphasia. And once I returned to the university, I realized I had found the profession for me. When I reflect back on this path, every step served a purpose. I became a different kind of doctor and have used my psychology and social work background daily in my work as an SLP. And of course, aphasia eventually became my passion as my career evolved.

What is biggest change you’ve seen in speech-language pathology over the years? What a great, yet potentially disturbing, question. We have gained so much as the profession has shifted to greater accountability and to the ongoing search for the evidence base for all we do. This same shift, however, has altered the ways we use our professional time. I confess I am nostalgic for the days when there were few limits on the amount and type of services we could provide. I felt I was truly working with the whole person 20 or 30 years ago. However, I do understand the ways that lack of accountability posed real challenges to professional practice. Today, person-centered or family-centered practice is once again receiving focus in much more targeted terms. In some ways, we may be on track to identify the appropriate blend of evidence-based practice with holistic life participation goals. I do worry, however, about those entering the profession now and how much easier it is to accept some of the practice limitations imposed by insurance. And for my whole professional life, I have worried about cookbook approaches to treatment. Limitations on treatment sessions seem to force some less experienced clinicians into adapting such approaches.

What are some of the different roles you have held over the years? I have been so lucky over the course of my professional life. I’ve listed a few of the roles that I have had a chance to play in my jobs and in my engagement with professional associations.

  • University program director
  • Coordinator or co-coordinator of clinical services in settings such as a United Cerebral Palsy Center and neuropathology services at a university
  • Co-Director of both the Office for Studies on Aging and the Teaching and Faculty Support Center at the University of Arkansas
  • Founder and co-coordinator, Stroke Support Group of Northwest Arkansas
  • President of Arkansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association and of the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (and convention chair for both groups)
  • ASHA Educational Services Board site visitor, board member, and vice chair
  • Chair of the first ASHA Special Interest Divisions directors board
  • Of course, numerous other activities in professional associations like ASHA and ANCDS
What are some of your most memorable career highlights? I must say that receiving the Honors of the ANCDS was an extraordinary career highlight. I have always seen myself as a worker in the SLP trenches. My actual clinical work took precedence for me over publications and presentations and being “known.” To be recognized by an organization that I value as highly as ANCDs was truly surprising and remarkably emotional. Teaching itself was and is a kind of career highlight. I hope my passion for teaching has been evident in my work with my own students, my support of profession-building in Sri Lanka, my campus-wide service designed to improve the teaching/learning experience at my university, and my involvement with CAPCSD (including receipt of Honors of that association) have meant so much to me. I do see other aspects of my career as highlights, although they are not always as documentable as receiving an award. In reflecting on this question, I realized for the first time that I value most my attempts to understand the impact of various neurogenic communication disorders on a person’s sense of identity, or self. Part of that is my evolving understanding of the role of narrative in identity processes, and the profound impact of aphasia and other neurogenic disorders on a person’s narrative. So the text written by myself, Pat Koski, and Fran Hagstrom on life story and narrative self is in fact a memorable career highlight for me. I know this is not the most widely read of texts, and that does not matter. In writing this text, I had the opportunity to talk to so many people and to begin to understand the depth of the impact of various disorders on identity. In writing this, I also had the opportunity to delve deeply into understanding my own experiences with a husband who became aphasic secondary to stroke. And I was able to put words to my intense commitment to those living with ALS, one of the cruelest of neurogenic disorders.

If you weren’t an SLP, what would you be doing? Honestly, it is difficult to imagine being something else at this point in my life. I would probably have pursued a career in some aspects of counseling or in case management. Perhaps more speculatively, I might have found a role in the world of theatre. In my mid-30s I discovered my passion for all aspects of theatre. I completed a M.A. degree in Drama and acted in or directed numerous plays. I also briefly took up playwriting and received several small awards for my works. My alternate life in the theatre enriched me as a person and actually broadened the skills I brought to my clinical practice.

What are your favorite hobbies, vacations spots…? Reading is my favorite activity. I can read for hours and days on end. I confess that I don’t always read the highest quality literature, and I feel quite inadequate when I hear others describe recent works of non-fiction that have influenced them. But I do look for characters that engage me with their breadth and humanity. A good example is the mysteries of author Louise Penny. She draws me into the world she has created, and it is always the complex humans that inhabit her spaces that engage me.  Dogs, specifically my dogs, are what might be considered my second favorite activity. They enrich my days. They are my family. Enough said. Travel is also one of my passions. Inside the U.S., my favorites include the Western coastal states, particularly Washington and Oregon. Outside the U.S., Ireland is a spectacular country with enchanting history, beautiful land and sea, and some of the friendliest people one can meet. For most intriguing places to travel, I always opt for southeast Asia. In recent years I have been to Sri Lanka four times, and the people there have made it a second home for me. Recurring travel themes are the ocean, the people, and something quirky.

Anything else you would like ANCDS members to know about you? I am thrilled to join the Board of Aphasia Access as of this January. There are so many leaders in our field who are putting the LPAA into practice in meaningful ways. I hope to be able to contribute to these efforts and to help SLPs, other professionals, and the healthcare industry understand why life participation should be our goal.

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