22. The History of School Speech Pathology


1960s Personnel Training


In 1963, a speech pathology major in the basement of Bryant Hall on the campus of Washington State University stood in the hallway of the speech and hearing center watching distraught speech trainees coming from their therapy rooms to hear the news of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. 

The Kennedy family advocated for retarded citizens. This is Mrs. Kennedy.


Money Flows to Education 


The U.  S. Department of Education published its impressive summary of accomplishments to improve special education for school children, “HISTORY: TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF PROGRESS IN EDUCATING CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES THROUGH IDEA (1985).” We see early on funds were invested heavily in special education, partly because of the urging of public advocacy groups, and partly because of public response to the Kennedy assassination: 


“There are numerous illustrations of key early Federal legislation that supported improved programs and services. Notable examples include the Training of Professional Personnel Act of 1959 (PL 86-158), which helped train leaders to educate children with mental retardation; the Captioned Films Acts of 1958 (PL 85-905), the training provisions for teachers of students with mental retardation (PL 85-926), and 1961 (PL 87-715), which supported the production and distribution of accessible films; and the Teachers of the Deaf Act of 1961 (PL 87-276), which trained instructional personnel for children who were deaf or hard of hearing. PL 88-164 expanded previous specific training programs to include training across all disability areas. In addition, in 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (PL 89-10) and the State Schools Act (PL 89-313) provided states with direct grant assistance to help educate children with disabilities. Finally, the Handicapped Children’s Early Education Assistance Act of 1968 (PL 90-538) and the Economic Opportunities Amendments of 1972 (PL 92-424) authorized support for, respectively, exemplary early childhood programs and increased Head Start enrollment for young children with disabilities. These and other critical Federal laws began to open doors of opportunity for children with disabilities and their families.”




The period George Kopp entered in 1960 after successfully assisting with the move of the American Speech and Hearing Association to Washington, D.C. was rich in funding at all levels.  Things were cooking and program development was advancing.


Money was coming to the field to modernize speech pathology training and practice. Students received traineeships. Yet, in the 1960s very little changed in how school clinicians were educated.  The medical model was preserved and school speech pathologists were obliged to work with out-dated tools. They knew voice, articulation, stuttering and hearing. They knew small room pull-out therapy on the model of the doctor’s office. In the end, they relied heavily on articulation therapy for daily service. Administrators began to pressure them for wider contributions.


Language Content


In 1973, language and psycholinguistics were being encouraged somewhat, but it took until 1993 for 6 hours of language to be required for clinical certification.  Courses were typically grammar structure courses. Instead of chaining sounds together, grammatical forms were chained together. Cognitive processing was not in the picture.  Neither were child-centered interactive therapies having social content. Therapy paradigms were the same as they had always been. Speech and Hearing centers were not centers for research as the founders had envisioned; they were places to reinforce structured adult-centered treatment procedures. 


The greater need was for faculties to introduce courses in sociolinguistics to help students understand social interaction, discourse and linguistic variation.  For traditional  faculty teaching voice disorders, for example, pragmatics was far too exotic to approve as coursework.  There was professional resistance to language, viewed as something of a fad. Yet by modern standards it is a large deficiency in schools. Whereas at the time 6 hours were required, 12 hours of language was the correct standard. There was the areas of pragmatics, semantics and language variations. Bilingualism and formal language tests demanded space in the curriculum. 




Hence, we see again the run up to Education for All Handicapped Children Ac of 1975 and how unprepared SLPs were for public policy changes.  Insufficiencies carrying over from the diminution of school speech correction in 1930 were still  operating. It was not about money.  There was plenty.  Membership dues from school speech pathologists were rolling in. It was about preference for medical thinking and associations with it. There was a kind of swooning over founders’ establishing the profession in 1925, a date that is still treated with admiration.







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