Monthly Archives: January 2015

Repost: ASHA Governance and School Speech Pathology Practice

After a full career in higher education, my subsequent work in Arizona schools convinced me school practice was behind the times and ASHA was failing to effectively address school practice issues. Why I asked? I read, observed, interviewed and wrote on issues to come up with answers. In 2012 I published the opinion below on how breakdowns were occurring. Since then, my focus has been on decision-makers. Who is responsible at ASHA’s under-performance?

I studied ASHA administrative documents and came up with two essential views:

1. The ASHA Board of Directors (BOD) is solely responsible for all programs and personnel according to the bylaws.

2. The BOD abdicates its responsibilities, serving as a ceremonial body deferring widely to the ASHA professional staff, in some cases leaving critical ASHA components of unexamined. Poor supervision of accreditation is a striking example, and accreditation is the arena in which curriculum must improve.

2012 Post


Tracing through the history of  The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association gives one ideas and impressions about governance and organization shaping school practices in American schools.

Governance is the act of governing. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of management or leadership processes…In the case of a business or of a non-profit organisation, governance relates to consistent management, cohesive policies, guidance, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility… ” (Wiki)

“The duty of decision-making is a cornerstone of professional associations, entrusted to the those elected to the organization’s governing body — in ASHA’s case, the Board of Directors” (Chabon & Pietranton, ASHA Leader, 2012, March 13).

Mr. Chang, swan-goose and friend, Lakeside, Arizona

Over more than 100 years of organizational activity, capture of  school speech pathology by a small group of academic speech therapists in 1925 established organizational bias against those who did not want to work in hospitals and clinics, and who wanted to work with school children. School practice was flourishing up to 1925, whereas speech therapy practice was almost non-existent. Medical-model thinking was imposed on school speech pathology by the careful selection of executive directors, central organization in Washington, D. C., and non-profit status. Medical model leaders used the rapid growth of school speech pathology as a revenue base for continued funding of narrow and often arcane speech therapy research, teaching and practice.  It took until 1970 for ASHA governors to take even a modest step toward supporting school functions by way of a small office for school issues and programs, an office which remains virtually the same today even though more than half of ASHA members work are in education.

The production of doctoral graduates preparing for leadership in schools  was  nil. Doctoral education was heavily invested in medical-model research and coursework.  The rapidly growing school section of ASHA went without leadership in school speech-language pathology.

In the meantime ASHA was flat-footed when it came to addressing the effects of the civil rights movement and federal legislation on school practice, beginning especially in 1975.  The small office struggled to address issues but was overwhelmed and under staffed.  ASHA governance continued to be biased toward medical model thinking, leaving preservice training in status quo.  A whole generation of graduates completed their careers with insufficient background with respect to the massively changing school environment.  The  deep bias favoring medical-model thinking blinded governors as to trends in school practice..  It is difficult to govern something one does not understand, if one has not practiced in schools.

Executive Director Position:    Speech correctionists were excluded a priori from the position of Executive Director of ASHA. A direct chain  from the male founders to the present day promulgated medical model thinking: Wendell Johnson (1931-1941, Iowa, de facto);  D. W. Morris (1941-1948, Ohio State):  George A. Kopp (1948-1957, Wayne State University); Kenneth O. Johnson  (1958-1980, Stanford Medical);  Frederick T. Spahr (1980-2003, Pennsylvania State). The last in the chain is a woman but no language specialist has ever  been selected, nor a doctoral-level professional with extensive school background.”  (Women Lost)

A clown on mainstreet.

Adopting the non-profit  structure imposed greater inflexibility on ASHA.  Whereas universities up to 1970 provided the fire power for organizational growth of the young profession, executive directors put their energies into the non-profit mission.  University programs lost their influence while sustaining “speech therapy” training.  ASHA became less nimble because it was investing both in gaining control of credentialing and establishing the non-profit base in Washington.  Becoming a strong national cartel for speech therapy services was the larger agenda.  From the beginning, the school  segment of the profession was the profit center to fund organizational growth.

With status quo operating unquestioned, and academic control diminished, ASHA governance took professional leadership in the direction of service to the non-profit medical model credential-control mission, a mission heavily influenced by director Kenneth O. Johnson, 1958-1980. The role of president of the association continued to be eroded giving executive directors greater de facto power and influence.  Presidents rotated through on one year appointments, insufficient time to produce lasting results, while allowing the one-size-fits-all training plan to carry on with little or no innovation to support school clinicians.  To bring the cognitive-linguistic model into training in the 1970s, no small amount of resistance operated.  Even now the literacy domain as an extension of language pathology has fallen years behind in development though it is central to emerging school practice demands.  Attention to literacy training in the university programs languishes. Upon his retirement Frederick T. Spahr, 1980-2003, admitted language had been a vital step forward for the profession although the movement had not received wide support.

For school speech-language pathology to receive full support for its changing mission,  it needs to be a separate ASHA division with separate graduate school major to rectify the historical mistakes by ASHA governors and to break away from cartel strategies.  We have developed here the rationale for  “educational speech pathology” parallel to educational audiology, pointing out repeatedly that school pathologists are half the ASHA membership.

Yet school speech-language pathology continues to be submerged in current institutional thinking: “ASHA exists to enhance the professional lives of audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language and hearing scientists, and through us, the lives of individuals with communication disorders”   (Chabon & Pietranton, ASHA Leader, 2012, March 13).  Science and  audiology get separate billing following old-line preferences dating back to D. W. Morris, 1941-1948 and George A. Kopp, 1948-1957.  These narrow technical areas receive support from the school SLPs who provide the force behind the profession. Under the present structures, there is not way to give full billing to school SLPs. School practice is just another practice area, “school-based” versus “prison-based” for example.

The Board of Directors should seek to overhaul speech-language pathology to include a separate ASHA division, properly supported in concept, advertising and funding. Policy should reflect changes in curriculum knowledge unique to educational settings.  Students going into school work should all have the background described in the course description developed at the Brooklyn College (New York):

Educ 7672T Teaching in Least Restrictive Environments

30 hours plus conference; 3 credits

Strategies to integrate and support students with special needs in least restrictive environments. System and organizational change theories and strategies for developing models of inclusive education. Focus on curriculum and collaborative processes with other professionals including co-teaching, consultative, and itinerant models. Engagement of family members in collaborative efforts. Students will implement a consultative/collaborative project. Field experiences in a variety of school and community settings.

Such preparation should be incorporated into clinical clock hour experiences in university speech and language training centers.  IDEA -2004 procedures should become a part of the work with those school children who have educational plans (IEPs). Proper diagnostic experience should  reinforce educational principles, and CCC training hours should be granted for such training.  One way or another, the Board of Director must make sure preservice training is appropriate for school clinicians.  One cannot count on colleges of education to provide linkages to IDEA requirements.

Window looking out.

The ASHA Board of Directors is soliciting input. President  Chabon has approved input to the Board, using an InTouch form for this purpose.

We advocate an overhaul of school speech-language pathology to remove historical bias favoring medical speech pathology.  The bias started in 1925 with the capture of school speech correction, and the “FOUNDER’S SYNDROME’ has operated ever since:

Founder’s syndrome is an issue organizations face as they grow. Dynamic founders with a strong vision of how to operate the project try to retain control of the organization, even as new employees or volunteers want to expand the project’s scope or change policy.”  (Wiki)

The cognitive-linguistic model was eventually accepted in the 1970s but never allowed to blossom fundamentally in support of language, culture and learning in schools.

Prior  comment:  “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.””

John M. Panagos


ASHA Paywall Policies and Issues

In the 1990s newspapers began to lose advertising to internet websites. Readers began to read news on the internet. With mixed results, newspapers put their content online and searched for ways of getting readers to pay for the content. Many online organizations have paywalls including the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. How do ASHA paywall policies affect access to information?


Thanks to Webopedia for this definition: “Paywalls are systems designed to monetize online and other digital information by preventing visitors from accessing web sites and similar content providers without having a paid subscription. Online news and sports web sites are the most frequent users of paywalls, with some sites implementing hard paywalls while others deploy soft paywalls.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

A hard paywall’s content restrictions are much more stringent than a soft paywall, allowing either no access or minimal access to free content. A soft paywall, on the other hand, provides significant access to free content as a means of encouraging users to subscribe for access to premium content.”

We support open public access to all relevant materials.