ASHA Philosophy of Curriculum Turned Upside Down

ASHA Curriculum Problems

In 1947 Samuel Robins wrote a scholarly paper on the “Principles of Nomenclature and of Classification of Speech and Voice Disorders”  (Journal of Speech Disorders, March 1947, Vol 12, 17-22). He argued formal classification is essential for speech science. This is the standard academic view and the basis for best practice. Professors strive for best practice.

Yet nearly 70 years later the national curriculum for speech-language pathology is a mess. Scope of practice runs amok. Course titles come and go (aphasia). Swallowing arises.  Graduate offerings differ. “Hot topics” emerge and disappear (pragmatics). There is constant overlap, and different labels for the same content (articulation / phonology). Theory consideration is negligible. ASHA public relations promotes questionable material (childhood apraxia). Even the name of the specialty is inconsistent (speech therapy, speech-language pathology, communication disorders, medical speech pathology). Members complain to ASHA but are brushed aside.

For example, ASHA on its Facebook page last month ran a small piece on Facilitated Communication, to which several responded negatively. “Melanie Hudson Ouija Board communication. I thought we had buried this hocus pocus long ago!.”  In 1995 (10.1044/policy.PS1995-00089) published a position statement saying, “It is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) that the scientific validity and reliability of facilitated communication have not been demonstrated to date.”…/10152985399150318?..

Participants of the 2011 ASHA Summit on “Clarifying and Promoting the Regulation of Clearly Differentiated Provider Roles” sized it up correctly:

“To address the misunderstanding and misalignments that can result from the lack of a shared nomenclature, ASHA should develop (or revise) and publish a lexicon for the field of speech-language pathology. Where necessary, the lexicon may acknowledge the range of terms now in use, but the intent should be to promote a shared vocabulary…

My Purpose

When I went back to work in the schools after a career in higher education I reported on the many nagging curriculum issues facing SLPs. The state of affairs was baffling. Why wasn’t ASHA keeping school practice up to date? How were problems of best practice being addressed? Best practice was shattered. Who was responsible for curriculum decision-making? That was a real mystery!

I continue to seek answers. Here we look at a critical historical event bringing to light the “politics of curriculum.” Best practice was sacrificed as well as the academic model.  We need to track down how ASHA broke up the traditional curriculum standards for graduate students in order to reach institutional goals having to do with the financial status of the non-profit organization in Washington, D. C.

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