Jenny Kern presents a check on behalf of Butler University to the AHSA in honor of Diefendorf. Photo from Butler University Communication Sciences and Disorders’ Facebook post.
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Allan Diefendorf, communication sciences and disorders professor and the head of Butler’s audiology clinic, was one of nine recently chosen to receive the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s most prestigious award.
According to their website, ASHA bestows this honor every year on individuals whose contributions in the field of communication sciences and disorders are of such excellence that they have enhanced or altered the course of the profession.
Diefendorf said the focus of his work has been on the early detection of hearing loss.
“When I got into the field, we were identifying hearing loss in children at about 3 to 3.5 years of age, and now, we are identifying hearing loss within the first 3 months of life,” he said.
Ann Bilodeau, director of the Butler Speech and Language Clinic and colleague of Diefendorf, joins him in performing free hearing and speech and language screenings for preschoolers around the community. CSD students help with these screenings, gaining experience in the field, while working to prevent late identification of hearing loss.
Diefendorf joined Butler’s CSD department as a visiting professor in the fall of 2014.
The senior clinical faculty in communications of the CSD department, Mary Gospel, said, “He leads by example for his students. We’ve had 100 percent of students who want to go into graduate school in audiology get into schools since he’s been here.”
“He’s like a prom king, all the students love him so much,” Bilodeau said.
At the annual CSD picnic, an event that brings together faculty and students from the department, a special speech was given to highlight the recent accomplishment of Diefendorf.
Hannah Hinkle, a senior communication sciences and disorders major, said, “The amount of people who came down to see him at the picnic, like researchers he’s worked with and other coworkers, they all came and spoke about him and it just shows how loved he is by everyone and how he touches your life.”
Hinkle takes her second course with Diefendorf.
“His natural passion and love for people is what makes him so special and go beyond just a professor, but someone to really look up to and aspire to be,” she said. “He wants to make sure that people have the best quality of life. You don’t meet him and forget him; he’s someone who changes you in a very positive way.”
From 1993 to 1997 Diefendorf chaired the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, an organization that aims to address issues that are important to the early identification, intervention and follow-up care of infants and young children with hearing loss.
“We really made a lot of progress, in terms of making universal early detection a national mandate, not just state by state, or hospital by hospital, but rather the entire country,” he said.
Diefendorf will continue his work with ASHA as the President of the ASHFoundation, the charitable arm of the ASHA organization that supports the advancement of knowledge in the field of communication sciences and disorders while seeking to improve the lives of people with speech, language or hearing disorders.
“Our goal is to be very engaged in fundraising and then to use those funds to support innovators and spark innovation,” he said. “We are trying to provide great support to younger people who are just getting started, whether it’s in their academic career or their research career.”
Diefendorf will officially be honored by ASHA on Nov. 10 at the ASHA Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles.