26. The History of School Speech Pathology

Starting in 1975 school speech pathologists were faced with a true revolution in education public policy of which they were an essential part.  It was a paradigm shift like the one happening in language. Did ASHA have the capacity to respond correctly, and in timely fashion?




Dualism is a timeless construct, attributed to Rene Descartes (1641). In linguistics a syllable is both a unit of langauge and speech. A clinician must infer.


IDEA created an assessment dualism, two-way classification for the speech and language impaired (SLI):


1. “communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment (that)


2. adversely affects a child’s educational performance.” 


It was debated in Rowley v. Board of Education (1980).  Did Amy Rowley deserve to have sign language to protect her right to a free and appropriate public education?




ASHA’s Kathleen Whitmire brilliantly spelled out implications for fluency placements where high-achievers might not qualify for special education.  ASHA in 1980 sought clarification from the U. S. Department of Education as to whether SLI children could be denied services according to adversity-affects criterion. She states:  For over twenty years, there has been debate about the determination of the “adverse affect” of a communication disorder upon a child’s educational performance.


(http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad5/papers/whitmire.html, 2002).


The article documents difficulties ASHA had sorting out the issue 25 years after EHA 1975. 


Why would it take so long with mixed results? 


The premise of the article is noteworthy, protecting the role SLP jobs and clinical practices. On the contrary, two-way eligibility criteria were an opportunity for SLPs to expand their roles in education, and protect non-disabled clients from being incorrectly placed and retained in speech education.


IDEA strengthened the role and prestige of school SLPs!




One of our most popular posts is SLI Definition for Eligibility in which we point out how SLPs in one state did not have correct information about the two-way SLI standard.  School districts were continuing to use an outdated state form. The large number of page-views suggests to us a significant information gap to the current date. 




SLPs were not prepared for IDEA change and information gaps continue to this day.  The reason was not organizational capacity — legal foundation, authority, structures, revenue, offices, personnel, technical support, paperclips.

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