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.