28. The History of School Speech Pathology

Market in Paris.

We are afforded a snapshot of ASHA’s outlook on schools in 1970 before 1975 arrived like a Mack Truck.  It was a time when a school journal was being organized, “Speech and Hearing Services in Schools,” (3: 1970), presumably to meet a need for an organ representing school interests.  The name of the association was, “The American Speech and Hearing Association” with no “language” included.  http:// lshss.asha.org/cgi/i ssue_pdf/ frontmatter_pdf/1/3.pdf

Leadership Profiles


The journal listed ASHA officers. According to our present analysis, men were “in change.” Eight out of eight executive officers were men. All had doctoral arts degrees. Also listed in a separate section were the members of the “Committee on the Speech and Hearing Services in Schools.”  There were six members, four women and two men. Three out of four women held doctoral degrees, but two were from other disciplines. Two of the six had master’s degrees, and two Ed.D. degrees. Only one of six seems to have had direct experience in schools. The difference in stature and qualifications is apparent. Doctoral women in school practice were few in number and lacking the status and qualifications of men.


Efforts were going forward to get the new journal organized.  Forty-five years after the official founding, ASHA established an office for school interests. Miss Thelma Albritton was appointed the first ASHA Associate Secretary for School-Clinic Affairs. She was an assistant professor at Eastern Michigan. She was not identified as having a doctoral degree. She started the new position and held it for one year, spending time traveling to schools around the country.


Miss Albritton was replaced by a man with a doctoral degree, Dr. William C. Healey. Dr. Healey had school administration experience.  He was appointed at the executive staff level as Associate Secretary for School-Clinic Affairs.  His duties were expanded over Miss Albritton’s.  “The Associate Secretary is responsible for developing, maintaining, and strengthening ASHA programs and activities in support of speech and hearing clinicians employed in schools and other clinical environments.” Dr. Healey better fit the profile of ASHA leadership, and he continued on in the job. 


The new journal encouraged participation of school clinicians through publication. “Our intention is to reach the dedicated professional people who are on the line every day, doing the actual clinical work in the schools, to speak to their interests and needs, to elicit their ideas and reactions, and to provide a forum for exchange and discussion of innovative practices.” 


Why would it take so long for ASHA to “reach out” after all those years?




We see why the response to EHA 1975 was inadequate.   After 45 years, ASHA was just organizing an office for schools. The first appointment was at the associate level, far below the stature of the director.   The pool of doctoral women for school leadership was small. 

Upon his retirement in 2003, Director Fred Spahr was applauded for his leadership: “Under his tenure, ASHA has advanced significantly. For example, membership was under 35,000 in 1980 and today it is over 108,000, an increase of 211%…” 


The growth continues toward 100,000 school SLPs.  The present number is more than 75,000, over twice the size of the 1980 organization. Yet the school office remains about same in size, staff, scope and function as it was in 1970. 


How much capacity should the school office have?  

Consider the size of the National Association of School Nurses.  In 1968 NASN started with NEA as a department. In 1979 it became a separate non-profit organization.  Today it lobbies in Washington, has a national network of state organizations, advertising plans, board members, annual conference, two publications, radio service, bookstore, national president, and a full-service web site.  All of this is accomplished with 14,500 members. 


The evidence seems clear enough to say the founders and their followers did not deeply value school speech pathologists, the majority of whom were female, and the necessity of investing aggressively in school programs to build organizational capacity to put schools at the top of the priority list for national leadership and success never evolved to a point of recognition and urgency.  Limitations on the status of women and schools were institutionalized to the point where younger professionals did not understand why they were socialized to accept the school priorities they were asked to maintain.

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