Today we are honored to have the 2018 Edwin and Esther Prentke AAC Distinguished Lecture recipient, Todd Hutchinson, share his personal experience about preparing for this momentous speech. Todd spoke at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention this past year in front of a packed house.
I would like to tell you a story about when I was in Florida and I got an email from good friend at University of Buffalo (UB), always we are working together to do projects. This project was more special to me because it said, “Hi Todd, I hope that you have enjoyed your trip to Florida. I would like to nominate you to be a distinguished speaker at our national conference for speech-language pathology. This would be an opportunity for you to impact SLPs across the country. The conference is in Boston in November. I could have my students help you prepare your speech as a project for my course. Perhaps Brie could come as your assistant?” I replied, “I would love to do it.” She knew I was thinking that for me, writing a speech is akin to writing a book in one day—it would be a lot of work. But I would get to go to Boston to tell SLPs about myself and how I broke down the wall. I knew nothing about Boston, but my best friend goes a few times every year. I have always enjoyed going to new places and meeting people. I would know by the end of March whether or not I would be invited to the convention. I tried not to think about it because I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
When I found out that I was indeed nominated to present, I was excited and happy. I started meeting with the students at UB who were going to help me with my speech. I already knew them because we had worked together before. They worked very hard for me. We had a lot work ahead of us. I showed them my ideas and we worked on the speech for months. After listening to the final product, we had to change some wording because my device pronounced some words wrong. It was tedious, but the students did it. I was grateful because the students did put together an awesome speech for me.
The night before we left for Boston, I waited for my best friend to arrive from Rochester. When he finally appeared he asked if I was ready to go to Boston, then declared, “I am hungry for pizza and chicken wings!” So we went to a restaurant to eat and joke around. We were there for hours talking about everything: his work, family, and the Boston trip. He said, “It might open doors for you.” I responded, “I hope so!” Then we headed back to my place and while my friend drove I thought about what he said to me.
The next morning I was up at 5 am. My staff fed me and got me ready for the trip while my friend slept. We were scheduled to leave at 9 o’clock. We got a late start but it was fine; I wanted my friend to rest before we left. We drove through snowstorms and then it was sunny and beautiful outside. Boston shocked me because it was so big and busy. We checked into our hotel and were amazed at how nice the room was. I had found the hotel as soon as I was sure I was speaking in Boston. We were there for 5 days. It was only 3 miles from the convention center but we had to drive through a lot of traffic. We did a practice run the day before my speech, leaving early enough to make it to the convention center via side roads and still find the room for my presentation. After figuring out our route to the convention, we drove around Boston to see the sights. Unfortunately, you have to pay for parking everywhere you go in Boston. I was sick of paying parking so I asked my friend to drive out of the city for a while. I felt myself relax some, but then I started to get scared thinking about my speech the next day. We got something to eat then went to our hotel to relax.
The morning came and I was going crazy, checking my speech and my device. My friend saw what I was doing and said, “You have given your speech a lot. Yeah, it is a big presentation, but I know you can to do it. I want you to look out at your audience and find a woman you like. Smile at her and look around when your device is speaking. When you are done looking around, redirect your attention to the woman you picked.” I said to him, “Thank you, I am going to try it.” So we left for the convention center and arrived on time. I waited for my turn. Then I went to the front of the room and waited for people to arrive. Although there were about 250 chairs set up in the room, some people stood along the walls or sat on the floor. I looked around and found a woman to focus on. Then I put my hand on my device, pushed a key, and said, “Hi! My name is Todd. I would like to tell you about my…”
Todd Hutchinson lives in Buffalo, New York. He lectures and works with teams to increase AAC awareness. He is the recipient of the 2018 Edwin and Esther Prentke AAC Distinguished Lecture.
Jill E Senner, PhD, CCC-SLP