3. The Mystery of ASHA’s Curriculum Process

In the last post we found that for 23 years ASHA has heavily advocated collaboration for school SLPs but has not developed academic coursework to support the skills SLPs needs. We asked whether ASHA has a curriculum process? Is it set up to evolve new course offerings in a steady and systematic fashion?
We wonder whether collaboration is only an isolated example of equivocal response to changing curriculum demands.

Reading

Cynthia Sudduth Feeney in January of 2008 (ASHA Leader, 13, 4) wrote a letter to the editor (“SLPs or Reading Specialists?”) expressing concerns about school SLPs being pushed into providing reading intervention. She remarked that training for reading was not in her graduate program although she had nothing against reading instruction in principle.

The Feeney letter set off a flurry of important letters in the spring of 2008. On the whole, writers embraced reading intervention as a good idea within the framework of collaborative education but questioned having time for it, and whether it was legitimately within their scope of practice.

Christine MaGrath wrote a letter in March, with the title, “Literacy Instruction Requires Literacy Credentials.” Kenn Apel pointed out ASHA already had reading and writing in its scope of practice document. An Editor’s Note was added: “The ASHA position statement, Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists With Respect To Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents,” states that SLPs…play a critical and direct role in the development of literacy for children and adolescents with communication disorders…”

Iris Weiss agreed with Feeney and thought ASHA should survey opinions of school SLPs “in the trenches” because they are the ones who are to implement proposed changes. In June, Barbara Coonan, in “We Can’t Do It All,” said, ” I respect Dr. Apel, but his response to Ms. Feeney indicates that our field continues to be plagued by a gap between research and practice. One of Ms. Feeney’s points was that ASHA doesn’t address the reality of our workday.”

Comment

This is a second example of ASHA’s slow and confusing response to an identified need for pre-service curriculum change in the universities and colleges.

It has been slow because for at least 15 years expert groups within ASHA have recommended school SLP involvement in literacy but curriculum change has not happened.

It is confusing because ASHA continues to push school SLPs into literacy with little or no input from the real workers who must implement change (as Ira Weiss emphasized). On the basis of small numbers of experts brought to Washington, D. C., for panel work, new content is simply inserted in practice documents and labeled “responsibilities” on the basis of ASHA authority.

Without the specifics of school practice, wide-ranging public debate and systematic curriculum follow-up, busy school professionals are left to ask, “Where is all of this coming from? Do they even know what we are doing out here?”

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