Elissa Larkin Receives Louis M. DiCarlo Award for Recent Clinical Achievement


Elissa Larkin Receives Louis M. DiCarlo Award for Recent Clinical Achievement


At the recent American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention in Boston, Elissa Larkin, research speech-language pathologist, Center for Aphasia Research and Treatment, received the Louis M. DiCarlo Award for Recent Clinical Achievement from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation).

Elissa was honored for her work on Communication Champions, a supported communication partner training program she developed here at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, adapted from the Aphasia Institute of Toronto’s methodology. (Elissa is a certified trainer in their Supported Conversation for Adults with Aphasia.)

“To illustrate what is at the heart of this program, the most helpful analogy is to think about how, for people with physical impairments, we as a society see it as our collective responsibility to put in things like elevators, curb cutouts and ramps to make the physical environment accessible for all,” she said. “For people with communication impairments, we can also use ‘communication ramps’ to make our communication environment more accessible for all, as well.”

The need for these “communication ramps,” explained Elissa, comes from scientific literature that shows individuals with communication impairments like aphasia experience decreased access to information about their healthcare. 

“We know that knowledge is power; if our patients have decreased access to information while in our care, that can be disempowering for them — which is the opposite of what we strive for at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab,” she said. “I’ll never forget the person with aphasia who told me, ‘I don’t have aphasia when I’m alone.’ The issues only arise when a person needs to communicate with someone else. If a Shirley Ryan AbilityLab employee doesn’t know how to accommodate communication needs, a patient can have a different and lesser experience of all that we have to offer.”

Since starting the Communication Champions program with a 2017-2018 pilot (funded with a Coleman Foundation Grant), Elissa has provided training for 53 team members, including a dozen in this year’s cohort. The program comprises five live meetings during the year, plus asynchronous learning in between sessions during which participants apply learnings to their patient interactions and share what they’ve learned with their colleagues.

To be nominated for the DiCarlo Award, honorees must first have been selected by their state association for a statewide honor for contribution to the advancement of knowledge in clinical practice. In February 2023, Elissa received the Outstanding Clinical Achievement Award from the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ISHA) for Communication Champions. (In the photo above, Elissa celebrated her DiCarlo Award with Tom Parton of the ISHA).

“Winning this award has led me to reflect on Shirley Ryan AbilityLab's incredible resources dedicated to innovation and knowledge translation that made this work possible,” Elissa said. “It is my hope that we can continue to lead in this area to ensure that work on this critical issue is not only sustained, but also grows to impact and improve even more patient experiences. Accessible communication is every patient’s right, and it is critical to providing excellent and equitable care.”

New Investigators Research Award: Dr. Mariana Mendes Bahia


Also at ASHA, Mariana Mendes Bahia, PhD, CCC-SLP, post-doctoral researcher, Center for Aphasia Research and Treatment, was awarded a New Investigators Research Grant from the ASHFoundation for her proposal “Cortical Activity and Respiratory-Swallowing Coordination in Post-Stroke Survivors with Dysphagia.”

Let's get connected.

Request an appointment