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Aphasia Access Conversations

How We’re Reducing Communication Barriers

Aphasia Access Conversations brings you the latest aphasia resources, tips, and aha moments from Life Participation professionals who deliver way more than stroke and aphasia facts. Topics include aphasia group treatment ideas, communication access strategies, plus ways for growing awareness and funds for your group aphasia therapy program. This podcast is produced by Aphasia Access.

Apr 29, 2022

During this episode, Jerry Hoepner, a faculty member in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, speaks with Dr. Audrey Holland about receiving the 2022 Robin Tavistock Award. 


In today’s episode, you will:

  1. Learn about Audrey’s recognition as the Robin Tavistock Scholar for her lifetime of achievements. 
  2. Learn about Audrey’s humble beginnings and how she moved out of the Skinner box and into functional communication. 
  3. Learn about Audrey’s philosophy on mentorship and being a mentor to the masses. 
  4. Audrey shares advice to the next generation of LPAA practitioners. 
  5. Find out if Audrey is truly “as common as dirt.” 


Interview Transcript: 


Jerry Hoepner: Welcome to the Aphasia Access Conversations Podcast I’m Jerry Hoepner, a faculty member in the department of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. Today I’m joined by Dr. Audrey Holland, the 2022 recipient of the Robin Tavistock Award. Although I feel as though no introduction is necessary, nor would that completely reflect the lifetime of work by Audrey, it is my distinguished privilege to introduce today's podcast guest. For over 60 years and she started when she was roughly 5, Audrey has been a leader in moving aphasia care towards holistic participation-based interventions that ultimately improve the quality of life for people with aphasia and their families. From her work on functional communication to aphasia bank to co-founding Aphasia Access, she has made remarkable impacts on so many of us. Her work on coaching and counseling has influenced the speaker. Her work on coaching and counseling has influenced the field of speech language pathology even more broadly without further ado, it is my distinct privilege to introduce Dr. Audrey Holland. 


Jerry Hoepner:  Well, again so good to see you today Audrey. It's always nice to connect with you and have a conversation.


Audrey Holland: Yeah, I just wish there were more opportunities, and I think this has been a very sparsely here for the kind of things that really make a difference for a lot of us, which is that last meeting seems so long ago and the last one for me was the one I had in Baltimore and whoa.


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah it seems like-


Audrey Holland: Centuries.


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah it seems like a long time since we've all gotten to be face to face, since all of this pandemic stuff has gone around yeah that's for sure. Really looking forward to getting back to seeing people, and you know, giving hugs and all of those things again yeah for sure yeah definitely.


Audrey Holland: I mean that's as much the meeting as the meeting.


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah absolutely. I agree, there's, you know, there's good things about connecting virtually but it doesn't quite feel the same as when you're in this. Yeah for sure. So hopefully by the time the next of Aphasia Access Summit comes around we'll be able to meet in person and I know we have a lot of new friends and old friends that we’ll be able to reconnect with at that time, too, oh.


Audrey Holland: Yeah that's going to be pretty fast. I think that's going to be faster than right now. I can visualize.


Jerry Hoepner: I hope so yeah, I hope that's the case that we can, yeah like you said, get back into rubbing shoulders with each other again. Yeah it was like we're getting can see the end of the tunnel. I hope- I should knock on wood when I say that. But it seems like getting there. Yeah well Audrey it's my pleasure to have a conversation with you today about your recent award the Robin Tavistock Award. Would you be willing to talk a little bit about what that means to you?


Audrey Holland: Oh yes, I’m very, very, very, very honored by that. I believe I’m not sure of them, I meant to open up this morning and I didn't. I believe it's been in existence for more than 15 years, but this is only the second time that it's gone to an American. I think those things are correct.


Jerry Hoepner: I believe you're right, I think in 2018, Simmons Mackey was the first American and then we've had another North American in 2020 and it was Aura Kagan. And, of course, a really long list of respected names in the in the field of aphasiology. Linda Worrall, Chris Cote, and Marion Brady and so many more that that come to mind that have just been such a great influence on the field in.


Audrey Holland: Are there Australians?


Jerry Hoepner: I believe, Linda Worrall. I’m not sure if there were besides Linda.


Audrey Holland: I think. But even so that's really wonderful that its international.


Jerry Hoepner: Agreed.


Audrey Holland: Don't mind that it's English speaking I think that's kind of appropriate but that.


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah, it's a pretty remarkable group of people that have been awarded this so we're really happy to see that honor being bestowed on you and certainly more than well-deserved given your work. With that in mind, maybe we can take just a little bit of a conversational journey through your kind of list of achievements, or some of your most kind of enjoyed achievements from the past and maybe talk just a little bit about some of the work that you've done in the past and how you see that as contributing to the to the field of aphasiology today.


Audrey Holland: Well order, the thing that I sort of I’m not embarrassed about this in the slides, but it really does work kind of funny looking back on it and that's the fact that so much of my early work was so rigid and so in the box and I didn't realize it really except as I stopped doing so much of it and started doing work that was much more satisfying to me and creative to me, and hopefully other people as well. But it's been kind of checkered career, when I look back on because you know I started out in child language.


Jerry Hoepner: I didn't know that.


Audrey Holland: Oh yes, oh yes. Not only that I started out in behavioral sciences really the rigorous behavioral sciences. I was married to a man who co-authored the analysis and behavior with B.F. Skinner and so that influence on my life was big and I remember distinctly waking up one morning and Jim and I were living in Boston you know and we were living in Boston and he was working and it was sort of like, “Okay, I have to- I got to tell her who he really married here. Jim there is something I have to tell you.” “Okay.” I said, “I got a behaviorist.” And he said, “yeah.” And I thought I my marriage was saved.


Jerry Hoepner: He already knew.


Audrey Holland: He just went back to sleep.


Jerry Hoepner: So, what moved you from, as you said, being kind of in that box, the more rigid behavioral approach to something that was more functional?


Audrey Holland: I can't resist the Skinner box thing like.


Jerry Hoepner: Exactly- the Skinner box.


Audrey Holland: I was raised in the Skinner box. Not all the time, but. What moved me from that? I didn't see people being satisfied by reaching- I can’t think of how the design definitely that would help people realize how their life can be better.


Jerry Hoepner: Right.


Audrey Holland: That just drove me insane and I thought you know there's two things you can do: You can either stop doing what you're doing then say, “I’m through, I quit, I’ll do something else, I’ll sell hot dogs on the corner,” whatever but what made sort of more sense to me was how can I move from what I am doing into the kinds of things that I think are worthwhile doing and that's actually when I started writing grants that had to do with getting along in life which quickly took limelight off behavioral analysis. All the things that didn't help people talk any better we're- not in talking in better just in general but getting along anywhere that's it speaking world, speaking linguistic world but just speaking.


Jerry Hoepner: So that really launched you it sounds like into the work that you did in the late 70s and 80s on functional communication and yeah I would say that work has been so influential on many of us, and really started to move the field in a direction away from the traditional drill and practice and to something more meaningful for supporting individuals with aphasia so fascinating to think about how that transition began. How did that relate to your working with individuals with aphasia and the way that they responded to this new way of doing things?


Audrey Holland: Well my sense was I wasn't doing anybody very much good. I mean you didn't do a whole lot of practice sentence structure really didn't seem to go anywhere and people always seem to be thrilled when I got through with that part of my therapy and started talking. Finally, got through to me that I felt better and that really, really made the difference and that was still in Boston, a very long time ago.


Jerry Hoepner: I know we've talked about this before a little bit, and I know, there was a whole room full of people that initially had conversations about the start of Aphasia Access or what would become Aphasia access but would you be willing to kind of give us a peek into that in those initial conversations and how that all got started and became what it is today?


Audrey Holland: Well, and I think that was the Boston meeting essentially that really got kicked off at the Boston meeting where everybody there, if not totally, at least partially had a mindset that fit with, “Okay, let's move this cart a little forward,” and it sort of shows, actually you were there, weren’t you?


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah.


Audrey Holland: Yeah it did it didn't start at the beginning, but it sort of was a ground swell. So that by the last date is like kumbaya we're all sort of thinking, “Oh wow look at all this room full of people feel as I do.” 


Jerry Hoepner: Was really remarkable to have all of those people together to with the same mindset and with a lot of shared values, to have those conversations and just to continue the work that was really burgeoning at that point in our field on life participation and.


Audrey Holland: It was it was like so kumbaya meeting is just such a warm, warm thing that nobody was like, “Well, I better get out of here. This is not my cup of tea,” you know nobody's robbing people thought that.


Jerry Hoepner: I don't know, I think it was a pretty close-knit group of people so.


Audrey Holland: But how did that happen?


Jerry Hoepner: That’s a good question. I think some good people brought the right minds together in the right place at the right time.


Audrey Holland: I knew who to see just to come.


Jerry Hoepner: Pretty remarkable what it's grown into since that time and the connections around the world and yeah absolutely. Well I’m going to shift gears a little bit, because I know, one of the things that people value so much about you and you hear this at ASHA and you hear it at Aphasia Access conferences and other conferences as well I’m sure, but that you've been a mentor either formally or informally to so many and people really value the advice you give and the human connection that you make with everyone. So maybe you can give us a little bit of insights into your you know your thoughts on mentoring and your thoughts on kind of helping to move the next generation forward.


Audrey Holland: Well, the first words that come into my mind with that question are hey we're all in this together, and I sort of see the group as people who share this sort of like, “Oh my gosh, I’m home. I found a comfortable place to be,” and I think people come by that, some earlier, some later. Some of my best friends never have gotten to that point. And they at least have the kindness to me not to tell me I’m wrong, and I don't tell them they're wrong. But it's pretty clear that more people are into this headset then I think we have any idea. I don’t know if that’s a decent answer. I’m not I’m no longer uncomfortable, so I really believe in helping each other is more important than if they say correctly right.


Jerry Hoepner: And it's remarkable that you're you know you're so approachable and so willing to approach anyone and get on their level. Your statement, you know “We're all in this together” is a really good reflection of that that you're willing to have a conversation with anyone and I feel like, as you said, it's that way at Aphasia Access meetings in general, no one is you know kind of out of reach, so to speak for a conversation.


Audrey Holland: I’m going to share one of my favorite stories with you Jerry. At Arizona, and I basically ran the spouse groups so that I add some and we were walking out of the spouse group one day, and there was a woman walking behind in front of me, actually, and she had with her someone that she brought to the group, and this is a spouse, and she said to the spouse she said, “What did you think?” And the woman said. She was really interesting. She was just like the rest of us.” And the other woman who I didn’t said, “I told you she was as common as dirt.” I was right, I was walking right behind him I cracked up, I mean I just loved it. That's probably my favorite color compliment I’ve ever gotten. Audrey Holland: Common as dirt.


Jerry Hoepner: Common as dirt. That's high praise when it comes, you know, meaning that you're able to connect in and didn’t seem standoffish or out of reach. That's fantastic, totally fits your ability to connect with a whole range of people so that's a fantastic story I love it.


Audrey Holland: It was, “Yes!” for me but I couldn't exactly you know do that in public. But it was I really felt it that's why I don't mind telling story.


Jerry Hoepner: Common as dirt, or you know that could be a title for the podcast we'll see. No that's fantastic, I wonder, so you mentioned that you are doing the spouse groups and it brings me to another question that I was thinking about because, along with all of your brilliant work in the realm of aphasia, you've done some amazing work in the realm of coaching and counseling that has impacted even a broader audience in our discipline. How did you make that leap towards coaching and counseling?


Audrey Holland: Remember, I went to a school that specialized in counseling and the whole picture, etc, etc, etc. So that that actually came with my master's degree, I think that was it stuttering. But the orientation to working with whole people not just their language has always been part of my- has always part of my graduate training from my master's straight on so I don’t know if that answers the question but.


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah absolutely definitely does so. I have one more big question and then maybe we can just wrap up our conversation, but I know that I have to ask this for all of my colleagues and future colleagues and students as well, so if you have any advice for future generations of speech language pathologists and life participation approach practitioners, what would that advice be to someone who is just moving forward or will be in the future years?


Audrey Holland: Whoo. I think part of the answer to that is be gutsy.


Jerry Hoepner: I like it.


Audrey Holland: People are not going to accept all this, but you know if you're gutsy enough you're going to be different enough and you're gonna be viewed as somebody that might have something to say and I don't think it's a bad thing to be who you are clinically I think you have to be who you are clinically and who you are as a teacher, not just you are as a body, you know so.


Jerry Hoepner: So, be gutsy, be assertive, be creative, take chances, is that what I’m hearing?


Audrey Holland: Uh huh. And take your lumps.


Jerry Hoepner: Lumps yeah that's a good point because not every- if you're always trying new things and pushing the boundaries I’m sure you'll find some times when things don't go exactly like you hoped, they would.


Audrey Holland: No that's never happened to me.


Jerry Hoepner: No, me neither you know for sure.


Audrey Holland: We're just perfect.


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah exactly. It’s nice to be that way.


Audrey Holland: When you come at somebody with a different opinion and you say, “No, the moon is not made a green cheese”, you're going to take some lumps and I think one thing good to be able to do is to shut your ears shut your ears, get away from it and continue to be yourself.


Jerry Hoepner: That's terrific advice. Yeah, I appreciate that idea of trying new things pushing the boundaries. That's how we move forward, rather than trying to stay in our comfort zone and do the same things you've been doing.


Audrey Holland: You're not gonna die. We aren't. You might take a few lumps, but so.


Jerry Hoepner: I feel like that sort of brings us full circle, when you talked about being in the box and not feeling very comfortable in the box and then kind of rounding things out with you know stepping out of that box, you know being gutsy, having the courage to do that and to move things forward so.


Audrey Holland: It isn't that you're feeling that I am much happier when I am who I am rather than when I say, “That was a dumb thing, that isn't me, I didn't mean to do that.” Yeah.


Jerry Hoepner: Yeah, I think that's great advice and I can see why that would carry over to you know the individuals with aphasia and their and their family members that you work with too. It's hard for them you know to be themselves and to push the boundaries if we're not being ourselves and we're staying in the box so fantastic.


Audrey Holland: It's like I just realized this morning that I have a couple of friends who are, well more than a couple of friends who have spouses and people who are aphasic, and so I talked to two or three of them this morning, just like, “Hi, how you doing, what's going on?” Just not anybody but Audrey.


Jerry Hoepner: On behalf of Aphasia Access, thank you for listening to this episode of the Aphasia Access Conversations Podcast. For more information on Aphasia Access and to access our growing library of materials go to If you have an idea for a future podcast series or topic, email us at Thanks again for your ongoing support of Aphasia Access.