Mildred Agatha McGinnis


Mildred Agatha McGinnis was known in the field of speech pathology and learning disabilities for her Association Method for teaching children diagnosed as having aphasia. She developed the method at the Central Institute for the Deaf shortly after World War 1. The method built upon existing methods used in deaf education, but were altered based upon McGinnis' view of the differences between deaf and aphasic children. She called the method an Association Method because it associates different skills with one another, in particular, association of articulatory movement with written letters, and sensory and motor association.

The method begins with individual sounds, then combines them to form syllables and finally words. Then words are combined into sentences.

McGinnis described principles used in her method as:

  1. A phonetic or elemental approach to learning words
  2. Emphasis on precise articulatory position for each sound
  3. Careful association of each articulatory position and sound with the appropriate letter-symbol(s) of cursive script.
  4. The use of expression as the foundation or starting point in building language
  5. Systematic sensory-motor association

McGinnis taught elementary school teacher prior to her appointment in 1916 at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis Missouri. Two years after her appointment, she was named Director of the Speech and Correction Division, a position which she held for 44 years until her retirement in 1963.

McGinnis based her association method on the methods used to teach deaf children oral language. She drew heavily from the methods developed by Carolina Yale at the Northampton School for the Deaf. Meyers and Hammill (Myers & Hammill, 1976, p. 150) describe six differences ways McGinnis adapted methods in current use with those who were deaf:

  1. There is no formal lipreading of what the child cannot say.
  2. There are no voice-building exercises disassociated with words.
  3. Nouns are presented sound by sound in the initial stages.
  4. The written form accompanies every sound that is taught.
  5. The acoustic and lipreading steps are given after, not before the child can say the nouns and associate them with the objects they symbolize.
  6. When sounds and nouns are learned, recall is expected without constant prompting by the teacher.

McGinnis Obituary, Volta Review, 70, p. 88, February 1968 (with photo).

Born Alton, Illinois, October 12, 1890

Parents: Thomas and Grace McGinnis

BS in Education, Washington University 1933

MA in Psychology, Washington University, 1939

Director of the Speech and Correction Division of the Central Institute for the Deaf, 1918 -1963.

Fulbright 1964 to lecture around the world on her method (Central and South America, England, Ireland).

Trained teachers to work with children and adults with aphasia, St.Louis

Recipient of St. Louis Globe Democrat award, Woman of Achievement in Education, 1955

Fellow, ASHA

Left royalties of her book "Aphasic children: Identification and education" to the Alexander Graham Bell Association.

Richard Silverman's testimonial to McGinnis, in an introduction to her book:

Mildred McGinnis has tangible qualifications for membership in the company of great clinicians. The hundreds of children with communicative disorders who have been helped by her methods, their parents, and her students attest to her abundant credentials.We see revealed in the pages that follow Miss McGinnis' zest for direct and substantial contact with the practical problems of disordered communication, and with the restless urge to 'do something now' for the children, and with her overpowering conviction in the face of pessimistic prognosis that every child is worthy of the great effort that her own career epitomizes.

Writings, arranged chronologically

McGinnis, M. (1924). Word deafness and congenital aphasia. Oralism and Auralism, 3, 89-95.

McGinnis. M. (1929). Diagnosis of congenital aphasia and word-deaf mutes. Oralism and Auralism, 8, 35-38.

McGinnis, M. (1931). Speech training and mental hygiene method for the correction of stammering. Proceedings of the American Speech Correction Association, 1, 138-142.

McGinnis, M. (1937). Speech spasticities-reports of cases and types demonstration by moving picture of sound record. Proceedings of the American Speech Correction Association, 7, 64-74.

McGinnis, M. (1938). Congenital aphasia complicated by hearing loss. Proceedings of the American Speech Correction Association, 8, 75-83.

McGinnis, M. (1939). Aphasic children: Identification and education by the association method. Washington, D.C.: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.

McGinnis, M. (1943). Max A. Goldstein, M.D., L.L.D. Journal of Speech Disorders, 8, 208.

McGinnis, M., Kleffner, F., & Goldstein, R. (1956). Teaching aphasic children. Volta Review, 58, 239-244.

McGinnis, M., Kleffner, Frank, Goldstein, Robert (1955+?) Teaching aphasic children. Washington, DC: The Volta Bureau.

McGinnis, M. (1963). Aphasic children: Identification and training by the association method (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.

McGinnis, M. (1964). Childhood aphasia and brain damage. In S. Rappaport (Ed.), Childhood aphasia and brain damage. Narberth, PA: Livingston.

Writings about Mildred McGinnis

Myers, P., & Hammill, D. (1976). Methods for learning disorders (2nd ed.). NY: Wiley.