Introduction to 20th Century Speech Pathology History

Most histories written of speech pathology origins in the US focus on organizational matters. They place the origins of the profession in around 1925, when those working in the field of speech disorders and speech correction established their own organization. This history of 20th century practices is broader than that. It focuses not only on the organizational origins but also on the science and ideas underlying the practices.

This second century of history follows on from the preceding section, around 1900 and proceeding to 2000. It is divided, chronologically into four periods, with each being characterized by what was a major focus during those years. The first part is called Our Formative Years because it deals with the early part of the 20th century when the scientific, academic, and practice seeds of the profession were planted. This period begins just before 1900, with the classic writing of Samuel Potter, and proceeds to the end of World War II.

Next is The Processing Period from 1945 to 1965, during which time many assessment and therapy approaches were developed to improve internal psychological processing underlying communication disorders.

A third period, beginning around 1965 and lasting until 1975, was the The Linguistic Era, during which time we came to treat language disorders as separable from speech disorders and as being linguistic in nature.

This rendition of the 20th century ends with The Pragmatics Revolution lasting from 1975 to 2000, when we reconsidered and reframed practices to include communicative, linguistic, cultural, and everyday-life contexts.