Clinical Practice

Relationships with Other Disciplines

Training and Certification

Case Studies


Credits and Acknowledgments


Last updated: 5-jun-07


1872 | 1918 | 1925 | 1939 | 1951

Speech-language pathology is a relatively young profession with links to many other disciplines. Here are some landmarks in the history of speech-language pathology.

Professionals in our field were first known as "speech correctionists" and were concerned chiefly with speech problems such as stuttering. They came to practice speech correction out of established fields including medicine, education, and elocution.Bell speaking into telephone.

Alexander Melville Bell and his son, Alexander Graham Bell were elocutionists, and both developed new ways of understanding, analyzing, and transmitting speech.

In 1872, the elder Bell designed a method, called Visible Speech, that provided a visible code indicating the position of the throat, tongue, and lips in the production of various speech sounds. These symbols were used by father and son as a speech treatment technique for teaching speech to those with oral speech difficulties.

Early in the profession's history, several different interest groups formed to promote education and understanding of speech difficulties. One group of speech correctionists, who were originally schoolteachers, called itself the National Society for the Study and Correction of Speech Disorders, began around 1918.

In 1925, the group that would eventually become the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) was formed. It was originally known as the American Academy of Speech Correction.

Pioneers in the field, including Charles VanRiper, focused on developing a scientific base for research and practice in the field. Their efforts included:

VanRiper was also instrumental in directing attention to the social implications of communication disorders. He stated (1939) "a severe speech defect, because it provokes rejection and other penalties due to its communicative unpleasantness, causes a low in self-esteem, in ego strength. Thus, in all it's various aspects and functions, speech is defective when it calls attention to itself, interferes with communication, or causes its possessor to be maladjusted."

Miller (1951) supported VanRiper's ideas and stated "communication, if it is anything at all, it is a social event." Miller was one of the first to present these ideas in print. In fact, when asked to teach a class on communication as a social process, he discovered no text existed from which to teach. As a result, he wrote Language and Communication.

Back to Top

back | next

Center on Human Development and Disability, Clinical Training Unit, University of Washington,
Box 357920, Seattle, WA 98195-7920