One Discipline, Two Professions The symbiosis of audiology and speech-language pathology has become more essential over time. From the President
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From the President  |   December 01, 2017
One Discipline, Two Professions
Author Notes
  • Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former department chair, professor emeritus and director of The Autism Center at Eastern Illinois University. gjrichard@eiu.edu
    Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former department chair, professor emeritus and director of The Autism Center at Eastern Illinois University. gjrichard@eiu.edu×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Hearing Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / From the President
From the President   |   December 01, 2017
One Discipline, Two Professions
The ASHA Leader, December 2017, Vol. 22, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.22122017.6
The ASHA Leader, December 2017, Vol. 22, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.22122017.6
I’d like to share the story of how I discovered communication sciences and disorders (CSD).
I am deaf in my left ear from encephalitis at age 5, and the complete unilateral loss was fairly unique. This led to me participating in several University of Iowa studies as a teen. I was also involved in children’s theater from the time I was 6. In high school, a role in the play “The Miracle Worker” introduced me to sign language.
Then I saw Marlee Matlin perform on Broadway in “Children of a Lesser God.” My fascination with hearing loss and sign language led me to CSD. However, once I began classes, I gravitated toward speech-language pathology rather than audiology. I loved the detective work of diagnosis and enjoyed the interaction and satisfaction of achievements realized from providing treatment.
I have always been involved in the constant interplay between audiology and speech-language pathology. One of my research, assessment and treatment interests has been auditory and language processing disorders. Without getting into the debate regarding these clinical entities, my focus is the connected auditory and linguistic phenomena that are integral to effective communication.
In my opinion, you can’t evaluate a processing disorder without assessing the ability to manage both acoustic and linguistic stimuli. The point is, the two professions are inextricably linked. Audiology enables an individual to interact with the environment through the reception and interpretation of sound. Speech-language pathology enables the individual to comprehend the signal and respond through speech, gesture or movement.
So my audiology roots in the profession have always been a source of pride for me. In fact, some audiologist colleagues have jokingly accused me of being a “closet” audiologist or “audiologist wannabe.” During the 1970s and 1980s, audiology and speech-language pathology walked very similar paths in the educational realm. As our scopes of practice expanded and evolved, there were times of less interaction, with audiology transitioning into areas such as interoperative monitoring, tinnitus and balance issues, while speech-language pathology expanded in issues such as cognitive rehabilitation, swallowing, literacy and discourse.
The transition to the AuD presented some challenges, but we remained one discipline with two professions. In the 2000s, the emphasis on interprofessional education and interprofessional practice has once again reinforced the common bond between the two professions. The shared discipline of understanding both audiologic and speech-language aspects of an individual’s communication disorder contributes to a shared responsibility that converges in realizing improved care for the individuals we serve.

In the 2000s, the emphasis on interprofessional education and interprofessional practice has once again reinforced the common bond between the two professions.

As I have visited with students during my year as president, I am heartened to see that students are embracing the roots of one discipline with two professions. They see the essential and critical interaction of audiology and speech-language pathology. The interprofessional focus in educational standards has also bolstered recognition of the contributions of allied professions, such as nursing, occupational therapy and otolaryngology, in helping audiologists and speech-language pathologists treat the whole person.
The previous narrow scopes of practice have broadened considerably as both professions evolve with new technology and research. More students are finding our professions after completing undergraduate degrees in adjunct areas, such as psychology, biology and neurology. There is a healthy respect for the vast knowledge foundation underlying CSD.

The diversity of options that our discipline offers to future professionals is one of its strongest assets.

I admit that it was a difficult decision to choose between audiology and speech-language pathology many, many years ago. I have continued to be fascinated, stimulated and challenged throughout my more than four decades working in the professions. I love what I do and embrace the opportunities to learn more from colleagues specializing in areas unfamiliar to me. The diversity of options that our discipline offers to future professionals is one of its strongest assets.
ASHA’s Strategic Pathway is the plan to move us to our 100th anniversary in 2025. While the discipline has experienced some growing pains along the way, I firmly believe that we are in a good place and moving forward responsibly, respectfully and productively. There are many exciting ventures on the horizon for our professions!
It has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve as ASHA president this year, representing both audiology and speech-language pathology. I sincerely appreciate all the interactions and opportunities I have experienced in this role. And I look forward to celebrating the continued collaboration and integration of one discipline, two professions!
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FROM THIS ISSUE
December 2017
Volume 22, Issue 12