14. The History of School Speech Pathology

Cultural and Linguistic Barriers

“I became a teacher of students with disabilities in 1971. I was there when Public Law 94-142 planted its roots firmly in the soil of prejudice. Before 1975, we as a people of this nation prejudged and unknowingly misjudged who could benefit from public education. In our ignorance of how to educate, we assumed that some children could not be educated. The original P.L. 94-142 was enacted to provide keys to the schoolhouse door.” (Ratcliffe Testimony).

Resistance to Change

In 1994 the U. S. Department of Education archived a paper entitled, “Education Reforms and Students at Risk: A Review of the Current State of the Art” (EdReformStudies/EdReforms/chap1b.html). Striking was the candor:

“Throughout much of U.S. history, the separate and unequal schooling of diverse groups has been reinforced by social mores, justified by pseudo-science, and, in many cases, mandated by law. Ethnicity and class have been perhaps the most obvious and contentious bases for discrimination, but other student characteristics, such as gender and disability, have also been used to isolate and track students into “appropriate” courses regardless of potential or interest.”


In 2000, the U. S. Department of Education published a summary of progress made attributed to IDEA legislation.  “Cultural and linguistic diversity” was now center stage because of the ever-increasing presence of minority children in schools:

IDEA has supported the provision of culturally relevant instruction for diverse learners in mainstreamed environments. Throughout the 1980s, IDEA-supported Minority Handicapped Research Institutes documented that culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities make, at best, limited progress in school programs that employ “watered-down” instruction in segregated environments. Building on and extending the work of these institutes, IDEA has supported the development and validation of culturally relevant assessment and intervention practices “(http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/).

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in the 1990s began to address issues of multicultural practices:

“Students and Professionals Who Speak English with Accents and Nonstandard Dialects: Issues and Recommendations” (1998), http://www.asha.org/docs

“Knowledge and Skills Needed by Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists to Provide Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services” (2004), http://www.asha.org/policy.

Brought on by the civil rights movement, “multiculturalism”was a growing national trend in all phases of society and education.


Over-identification is the tendency of schools to place non-disabled children in special education.  In the mid-60s this tendency was already being identified:  In 1968:

“…Dunn, citing U. S. Office of Education statistics, reported that ‘about 60 to 80 percent of the pupils taught by [teachers in mild mental retardation or MMR classes] are children from low status backgrounds — including Afro-Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, and Puerto Rican Americans; those from nonstandard English-speaking, broken, disorganized, and inadequate homes; and children from other non-middle class environments” (Monarch Center).

Non-disabled children who were brought into schools by compulsory education and civil rights laws were excluded again through special education placement.  In May of 2002, The Alliance for Excellent Education reported:

“The reauthorization bill will undoubtedly attempt to reform a system in which race often plays a role in whether a child is labeled learning disabled. Currently, African-American students account for 16 percent of the U.S. student population, but represent 32 percent of the student in programs for mild mental retardation.” 


Disproportionality and over-identification remain SLP issues today.



Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Box Hill Speech Pathology  On November 14, 2013 at 3:52 am

    Most people these days just assume if a child can’t read its dyslexia and if a child is stuttering its speech. They no longer assess situations, its sheer laziness. They need to thoroughly asses each situation and stop assuming the diagnosis of each child.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: