5. History of School Speech-Language Pathology

1960s

In the 1960s money was flowing into schools and universities.  Research was encouraged and paid for.  On the horizons were significant changes in the speech pathology practice.  The “scope of practice” expanded as a result of research studies, speech science applications and linguistic theory.  Professor Duchan refers to “The Linguistic Era from 1965 to 1975 during which time we came to treat language disorders as separable from speech disorders and as being linguistic in nature…” Later pragmatics added to the language area amplifying the intensity of curricular change.  The new interest in “that language stuff” brought about tension among faculty, clinical supervisors, students and clinicians.  It came on hard and fast, taking no prisoners. 

In 1978 the American Speech and Hearing Association became the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. This was massive change in scope of practice to say nothing about critical changes in theory.

Scope of Practice Issues Arise

The language boom meant more “structures” to assess and   target in therapy.  For example, morphology came into focus and whole new area of intervention developed.  Vocabulary instruction became ever more complicated than the era of teaching nouns to retarded children.  What’s more, language was said to be nested in cognitive processing.  Teaching language structures required children to process the structures and not just produce them as memorized forms.  One should expect clients to learn strategies of processing and generalize structures.  

In the period authors created language tests for the components of grammar and semantic ability.  Speech therapists were not accustomed to extensive testing protocols and the interpretation of statistical outcomes.

School speech pathologists were now being pushed out of their comfort zone, doing stuttering, hearing, voice, vocabulary and articulation.  It meant more work to absorb new ideas and apply them to ever increasingly complex cases, including minority children with different styles of speaking and learning coming into schools as a result of civil rights acts. They were required to justify their plans to IEP teams and to report progress at the end of the year.  Their instruction had to be tied to the curriculum standards of the school.

One Experience

Work demands were changing and increasing, as SLP  Cindy Montalbano recounts.  She started in the field in the 1980s, servicing a variety of schools with few complications of practice. Now SLPs have office locations and are more of an integral part of the staff.  They do more case management and consulting.  There is more emphasis on working in the classrooms in cooperating with teachers (http://cjmonty.wordpress.com/speech-therapist/).  This is of course the time when IEP planning and meetings were required of all related services specialists.  Fostering and documenting integrative planning was a premise of IDEA regulations.

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