CLEVELAND, OH, March, 2015 – The Thomas M. Lewins IV Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Judy Heyer for her lifetime dedication to helping individuals with disabilities communicate better. The presentation took place on February 26, 2015 at New Avenues to Independence’s Annual Meeting. New Avenues offers services and programs to over 750 individuals with disabilities in Northeast Ohio.
Heyer has served as Speech Therapist at New Avenues to Independence for over 40 years. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology from the Ohio State University and studied in England prior to pursuing her Master’s degree at Cleveland State University. Heyer has provided clinical internships for over 80 students working on their Speech Pathology and Audiology degrees from Cleveland State University. As a speech therapist, Heyer is a specialist with training in the diagnosis and treatment of various speech, voice and language disorders.
She began her tenure at New Avenues with 20 individuals, and the number of men and women she has helped has grown considerably over the years. The main goal of speech therapy is to improve communication – to make sure the individual can be understood in the wider world. Goals include: improving coordination of speech muscles through strengthening exercises, improving communication between the brain and the body through visual and auditory aids such as mirrors and recorders and improving fluency through breathing exercises.
Throughout the years, one of the biggest obstacles that Heyer has overcome is finding an appropriate approach for the individuals who are non-verbal - those who are unable to make speech sounds or cannot make them clearly. Understanding that communication involves so much more than language, Heyer works with each person individually to find a way that they can express themselves. She recognizes that each will have different outcomes depending on his or her particular disability. The length of time in speech-language therapy depends on many factors, such as: severity of the problem, the frequency of therapy as identified in the individual service plan, and the consistency of help at home. Her acknowledgement of these factors greatly contributes to her success.
“Judy has been an inspiration to us all for over 40 years and she is still going strong. This sensitive and talented woman has consistently provided a remarkable service to the men and women served by New Avenues to Independence in her role as Speech Therapist. She truly deserves this award,” states Thomas Lewins, Executive Director of New Avenues. When asked what her favorite part of the job was, Heyer immediately responded “the individuals.” She has a passion for working with children, men and women with disabilities and celebrates every breakthrough, especially when someone realizes that they can now communicate. And she finds that her job is constantly evolving by developing new ways to help people.
The benefits to the people served by New Avenues have been many: improved skills that allow individuals to communicate more effectively; improvement in the ability to understand and express thoughts, ideas and feelings; intelligible speech so they can be understood by others; development of practical social skills; better quality of life; greater self-esteem and increased independence.
In addition to her work at New Avenues, Judy is a tenured professor and renowned national speaker and advocate. Her work has been included in peer-reviewed journals, presented at conventions and acknowledged by many professional organizations. She has traveled the world helping others learn to communicate better. The Thomas M. Lewins IV Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to enhancing the lives of people with developmental disabilities throughout his or her professional lifetime. Judy Heyer is the third recipient of this prestigious award.