16. The History of Speech Pathology


 Another Brick in the Wall

 Pink Floyd,1979

We don’t need no education 

We don’t need no thought control 

No dark sarcasm in the classroom 

Teacher leave them kids alone 

Hey teacher leave them kids alone 

All in all your just another brick in the wall 

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall 


The Wall 

School  speech-language pathology had  its successful debut at the beginning of the 20th century in schools in the manner of the elite traditions of English education and class distinction.  Speech correction teachers were white women, a fact that continues to this day.  “Multiculturalism” is something new.

Then Compulsory Education!  Under the American Constitution, all children were equal with implied rights to an education. 

Against Differences

Mainstream Americans fought hard against inclusion.  Poor Irish kids from Kentucky mines, black children from the Mississippi Delta, Navajo children from the high plains, Mexican children over the Rio Grande, and handicapped children in homes had nothing in common except they were different. SLPs worked at voice, stuttering, hearing and articulation problems. In the 1950s some speech correction teachers called themselves “s and r therapists.”


Civil rights brought the Irish kids out of the mines.  Indian boarding schools closed, and busing brought black children to white schools.  Retarded children seeped into caseloads as school psychologists organized classes.  Migrant Hispanic children joined local schools. The school doors opened and teachers rolled up their sleeves.

Then the final blow:  Public Law 94-142 of 1975

Schools re-organized to accommodate all handicapped children and all minorities. SLP roles changed radically and legally.  Employment contracts changed to include federal responsibilities to the handicapped.

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