10. The History of School Speech Pathology

Related Services and IDEA

In 1975 school speech pathologists might say: “We don’t have to worry about least restrictive environment because we are not teachers!”

We see how this argument might be used because “speech therapy” was a separate occupation in 1975, and speech therapists worked in hospitals, too.  Or in private practice. There was pride in that fact, that this was a separate allied health related field and not a branch of education. There was a core curriculum at the universities emphasizing clinical science. Education was not a part of that.

But…..interestingly……the courts and congress disagreed!

Speech Pathology

Under the provisions of different laws, the result was to…” define free appropriate public education as special education and related services that (a) have been provided at public expense, without charge and under public supervision; (b) meet the standards of the state educational agency; and (c) provide an individualized education program for each child at the preschool, elementary, or secondary school level. 

 [and] “…define related services as transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and support services as a handicapped child requires to benefit from special education. These services are to include early identification and assessment of handicapping conditions, medical services necessary for diagnosis and evaluation, speech pathology, audiology, psychological counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and recreation”  (Karl Boettner,  University of Puget Sound Law Review, Vol. 7:183).

Now there was no doubt: Speech pathology was a part of education, and was responsible for helping assure a free and appropriate public education for the handicapped children they served.

Impact on Education

More subtle is the fact that education itself was changed to include clinical education and support.  One can say this is the end of the chalk and blackboard era. 

A reason for this shotgun marriage was the history of school pragmatism.  With compulsory education came  problems of serving all kinds of different children and   traditional teachers couldn’t handle everything alone.  They were faced with clinical issues.

In another post we noted: 

“The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) was established in 1917.   In 1921 in the United States physical therapists formed the first professional association called the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association.  School psychology was founded between 1910 and 1914 when schools wanted help to select children for special education.  Speech pathology was organized in 1925 to help children with speech problems.  The Council of Exceptional Children was organized in 1922 at Teachers College, Columbia University.” 

The stellar work of these “helping professions” proved indispensable, carrying forward to the point where congress codified the fact of their contributions. The final result was one of defining speech pathology as a component of education. To work in a government school, speech pathologists  were to accept a role which included the principles and practices of education.

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