I have spent the last fifteen years in a professional relationship with Kathleen Florance of North Falmouth.  As you may already know, she is a practicing Speech and Language Pathologist, serving the youngest children of the Cape who have been diagnosed with developmental deficits, on a full-time basis.  In addition, she is working to develop a program called Family PlayPals, to serve her young clients and their parents beyond the time they spend on therapy sessions.

My relationship with Kathleen is as one of four Speech Language Assistants, in a large human services agency, with four program sites in Southeastern MA, serving adults with disabilities.  My purpose in this presentation is to share some of my thoughts about what this remarkable woman brings to the countless individuals, either through her clinical practice, or the staff and members of the four Access Center programs in Southeastern Massachusetts and on Cape Cod.  I have been searching for some kind of visual image, which would help others understand the incredible complexity of the world inhabited by her hundreds of associated individuals.

After much searching, I re-discovered a photograph of the Hedge Maze at Longleat, England, only one of hundreds of mazes, which are still popular in Great Britain, Europe, and elsewhere in the world.  I had the pleasure of spending a summer in England during my collegiate years, and visited this marvelous labyrinth a number of times.

You might ask, "What does this maze have to do with the life and work of Kathleen Florance and the hundreds of people who are directly or indirectly touched by her personality and profession?"

Mazes or labyrinths have been described as "allegories, which typify human life."  Go one step beyond that characterization to consider the fact that one's voluntary decision to enter such a maze implies an agreement to accept temporary confinement in a virtual captivity, wherein one's sight and hearing are automatically impaired by the height and thickness of the hedges.  And, truth to tell, the majority of people with exceptionally good sight and hearing are among those who at last require the help of a guide standing in the central tower to guide them safely back to the entrance, and release from their leaf-lined prison.  And, to make matter worse, imagine how you might feel if, unknowingly, while in a deep sleep, you had been carried into this maze, and left to come awake totally alone, with no choice to be challenged to find your way out of the virtual prison, with no one standing in the tower to guide you back to freedom...

I like to think of Kathleen standing in that tower, day and night, waiting to guide each person, adult or child, through the bewildering labyrinth of early childhood disabilities, to ultimately become a fulfilled and fulfilling member of the greater community.  The platform on which she consistently stands has been built year by year, day by day, from the time she grew up with two parents who were engaged in the field of speech and language therapy.  Beyond her graduate level academic and clinical experiences, both as a student and teacher, Kathleen has furthered her continuing education through attendance at several yearly graduate seminars, keeping abreast of the latest advances in the field of autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and many other communication disabilities.  One of the joys of working with her is to find oneself, now and again, standing beside her on that central tower of the maze, helping to guide others to safety and accomplishment. 

I am convinced that Kathleen's unique perspective on the matter of communication disabilities enables her to see those deficits, which form the child's impairment, and to reach behind them to connect with the child behind them.  Furthermore, as a lifelong communication specialist, I believe she can see beyond the child's immediate obstacles, and look forward to the time when the child becomes a woman or a man, and is able to face an independent, happy, fulfilling adult life, with dignity and the respect of his or her community.

-- Stanley H.

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Speech & Learning Consulting
P.O. Box 827
North Falmouth, MA 02556-0827


Kathleen M. Florance, CCC/SLP-L, owner/director