ASHA charter members’ responses to their times (Duchan & Hewitt, 2023)
Purpose: This article examines the responses of the founders of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA; original name, the American Academy of Speech Correction) to the social trends of their day in the United States. Those trends included migrations from Europe and the rural South, the emergence of new scientific methodologies, and the birth of a professional class. Our aims are to reveal how the founders reacted to these select social changes, to show how their reactions served to shape the newly formed profession in and around 1925, and to describe how that profession is still grappling with their choices even today.
Method: The writings of the founding members of ASHA were examined for evidence of their views in relation to 20th century historical trends, specifically examining their attitudes toward clients and clinical practice.
Results: We identified elitist, ethnocentric, racist, regionalist, classist, and ableist statements in the writings of the founders. They promoted practices that denigrated those speaking dialects that were deemed nonstandard, including linguistic patterns originating from ethnic, racial, regional, and class differences. They also used ableist language in writing about people with communication disabilities, adopting a medical model that elevated the professional practitioner over the client.
Conclusions: Our founders’ response to social and political trends led to their creation of oppressive professional practices rather than to work within a more positive social model of professional practice, which was readily available to them at the time, one that would have embraced differences rather than seeking to erase them. Once again, we are experiencing sea changes in our society, ones that offer us the opportunity to reverse the practices shaped by our predecessors. We can learn from the missteps of our founders to create practices that empower and respect those with communication differences or disabilities.
Supplemental Material S1. Professional biographies of ASHA’s 25 charter members.
Duchan, J. F., & Hewitt, L. E. (2023). How the charter members of ASHA responded to the social and political circumstances of their time. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 32(3), 1037–1049. https://doi.org/10.1044/2022_AJSLP-22-00273