by: Blair Gorenberg MA, CCC-SLP
Speech therapists can be found working with people of all ages in various settings addressing many different aspects of speech and language. But what did speech therapy look like when it first started?
When Did Speech Therapy Start?
Speech therapy can be traced back to a few different moments in history. First, 18th century England focused on perfecting speech through elocution, which was imperative for politicians and public speakers alike. When the idea of speech perfection came to the United States, its focus evolved into helping those with speech, language, and communication disorders. In the mid-1900s, with so many veterans returning from the war with head injuries, addressing cognitive-communication deficits became the main role for speech therapists nationwide. Speech therapy continued to evolve into the field that it is today, covering a wide range of disorders.
Who Were the First Speech Therapists?
Interestingly enough, the first individuals to take on the profession of helping others improve their speech and language were not actually called speech therapists. For many years, these individuals were thought of as quacks or incapable people who were making up their qualifications and techniques. Despite the skeptics, the number of “speech correctionists” continued to grow until the group was large enough to form a special interest group. Led by Walter Babcock Swift of Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, the National Society for the Study and Correction of Speech Disorders was founded in 1918. Eventually, the American Speech Language Hearing Association was created, which is the remaining governing body of speech-language pathologists and audiologists today.
Many early “speech correctionists” were led to the field due to their own experience with speech disorders. For individuals such as Elijah Corlet, this occurred by helping one of his students elongate his words to combat stuttering. Robert Bates, however, developed devices to help those who stutter because of his own struggle with stuttering.
Modern Day Speech Therapy
So what does speech therapy look like today? Speech therapists can be found working in schools, outpatient clinics, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and even in your own home. From birth to the end of life, speech therapists provide assistance with speech, language, cognitive, communication, and swallowing disorders. Many therapists are still drawn to this field after working with individuals with speech and language disorders or experiencing a disorder themselves. Improvements in technology have helped speech therapists address these disorders like never before as seen with communication devices to help individuals express themselves, biofeedback devices to combat a chronic articulation disorder and so many other innovations. Speech therapy’s deep historical roots and expansive reach ensure its longevity and demand as a profession.
Learning More About the Growing Field
If you’re interested in learning more about speech therapy, reach out to The Therapy Place! We have a whole team of qualified speech therapists that would be happy to answer any of your questions. Whether you’re worried about your child’s language development, or you’re just curious, we can help lead you to the right place.
“Browse History.” Judy Duchan’s History of Speech – Language Pathology, http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/new_history/overview.html.
Duchan, Judith Felson, and Google Scholar More articles by this author. “What Do You Know about Your Profession’s History?” The ASHA Leader, https://leader.pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/leader.FTR.07232002.4.
“The History of Speech Language Pathology.” SpeechEasy, 14 Feb. 2019, https://speecheasy.com/the-history-of-speech-language-pathology/. “History of the Professions.” History of the Professions – Health Sciences Library – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, https://hsl.lib.unc.edu/speechandhearing/professionshistory.