Kay Novak Healey (’68) believes strongly in the importance of communication. For the past 23 years, she has endeavored to help children in public schools improve their communication skills. Her efforts resulted in her recent selection by the Utah Speech Language and Hearing Association for the Rolland J. Van Hattum Award for School Clinician of 2006.
Her ambition to work with handicapped children was fostered at an early age. As the daughter of a pioneer in special education, she quickly came to understand the positive impact such work could have in the lives of others. Her mother had a commitment to helping school districts find students with handicaps and providing programs for them. “Because [my mother] involved me in her work,” Healey recalled, “I was often around children with handicaps . . . I knew early on that I wanted to work with them.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from BYU, Healey decided to stay home and raise her four children. Fifteen years later, she returned to school to earn her master’s degree from the University of Utah. She said many teachers inspired her throughout her schooling. “I had good professors at BYU—Parley Newman and Gordon Low among many others—as well as my professors at Utah.”
Now, as a speech pathologist and supervisor, Healey is continuing to learn and help others with the knowledge she has gained. She currently spends half of her time on her caseload and the other half working with new speech therapists. She is particularly concerned with the development of new ways to recruit therapists, since there is a nationwide shortage of speech pathologists in schools.
Healey has been involved with a district assistive alternative augmentative team to help non-verbal children. They have worked at finding electronic devices to aid in communication; these devices range from simple, low-tech devices to high-tech dynamic display devices that allow users to choose items from a large selection of pictures. Healey’s objective is to find methods that best allow each individual to build sentences and express his or her needs and wants.
As she works to improve each child’s abilities, Healey recognizes the value of making communication both functional and fun: “I want the kids to see the need to communicate well and have the desire to do so,” she explains, “The most important thing is caring for the children and being enthusiastic about your work.”
Healey’s other interests include learning foreign languages, reading, traveling, enjoying the outdoors with her husband, and spending time with her 16 grandchildren.