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Speech-Language Pathology Assistants


The diagnosis and treatment of speech and hearing defects is a relatively new part of medical science. In the past, physicians were not able to help patients with these types of problems because there was usually nothing visibly wrong, and little was known about how speech and hearing were related. Until the mid-1800s, medical researchers did not know whether speech defects were caused by lack of hearing, or whether the patient was the victim of two separate ailments. If they could figure out why something was wrong, doctors still could not communicate with the patient.

Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, provided some of the answers. His grandfather taught elocution, which is the art of public speaking, and Bell grew up interested in the problems of speech and hearing. It became his profession, and by 1871 he was lecturing to a class of teachers of deaf people at Boston University. Bell then opened his own school, experimenting with the idea of making speech visible to his pupils. If he could make them see the movements made by different human tones, they could speak by learning to produce similar vibrations. Bell's efforts helped deaf people of his day and also led directly to the invention of the telephone in 1876. Probably the most famous deaf person was Helen Keller, whose teacher, Anne Sullivan, applied Bell's discoveries to help Keller overcome her blindness and deafness.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) was established in 1925 to promote "scientific, organized work in the field of speech correction." The ASHA has since grown to more than 211,000 members and provides national standards and resources for speech-language pathologists and scientists. The profession of speech-language pathology assistants has grown in recent years as awareness of speech and language disorders has risen. These assistants will continue to be in demand to help improve the speech and language skills, particularly in younger children and in the older population.

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