Communication Disorders Alumnus Howard Shane Receives Frank R. Kleffner Lifetime Clinical Career Award

UMass Amherst Communication Disorders alumnus Howard Shane

Howard Shane '69 '72MA

December 16, 2019

Communication Disorders alumnus Howard Shane ’69 ‘72MA recently received the Frank R. Kleffner Lifetime Clinical Career Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation) at its annual Founders Breakfast on November 22 in Orlando, FL. The Kleffner Award is the organization’s highest honor, and recognizes an individual’s outstanding contributions to communication sciences and disorders over a period of at least 20 years.

Shane is the director of the Autism Language Program and the Center for Communication Enhancement at Boston Children's Hospital, as well as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Professions. The ASHFoundation honored him for his “more than four decades of extraordinary achievement as a clinician, researcher, mentor, and advocate dedicated to supporting children and adults with complex communication impairments.”

“I was surprised and delighted to receive the Kleffner Award,” says Shane. “It has been said that when Sir Isaac Newton was asked about his accomplishments, he stated that it was by 'standing on the shoulders of giants.' There is no doubt that one of the shoulders I stood on was UMass and the Communication Disorders program.”

In its award announcement, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association writes, “His work—characterized by inventive thinking, novel approaches, and pioneering technology developments—has focused on addressing the needs of children with severe communication disorders, particularly those without speech. A true innovator, Shane conceived of clinical models and practices where none existed to create breakthroughs for those with the most severe disabilities. Initially fueled by rapid expansion of technology in the late 1970s and early 1980s, his work harnessed the potential of computer hardware, software, and peripheral equipment to create high-tech solutions for people with cerebral palsy and related neuro-motor diseases. His contributions to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies illuminated the capabilities of people with severe communication impairments to participate in social and educational contexts in previously unimagined ways. His seminal work with ‘feature matching’—a clinical decision matrix that matches AAC device features to the abilities and deficits of the patients—is now a worldwide standard of care.

“The reach of Shane’s work is extensive. He has published widely, influenced policy, and provided organizational leadership. His accomplishments have inspired and advanced clinical care on a global scale for thousands of children with severe communication disorders, their families, and generations of professionals who serve them.”

A member of the SPHHS Dean’s Advisory Board and a recipient of the SPHHS Award for Significant Contributions to the field of public health and the health sciences, Shane received his BA in 1969 and his MA in speech-language pathology in 1972 from UMass Amherst. He later earned his PhD from Syracuse University and completed a Doctoral Fellowship at Mayo Clinic in 1975.