First Advisor

Sy Adler

Term of Graduation

Spring 2003

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Administration and Policy


Public Administration




Speech therapists -- Education (Higher), Handicap, Disabilities, Textbooks



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vii, 270 pages)


The purpose of this dissertation research was to discover, describe, and analyze how disability is portrayed to students attending graduate programs with the objective of becoming certified to practice the profession of speech-language pathology (SLP). Curricular materials drawn from the 228 SLP graduate programs in the United States were analyzed, using qualitative research strategies, to shed light on the processes by which portrayals of disability affect the presuppositions and practices of professionals who work in disability services.

The analysis provided supporting evidence for the claims of disability scholars and activists that the concept “disability” is a malleable social construction that affects the lives of individuals with conditions, impairments, or disorders in a variety of ways. Three approaches identified in this study—clinical competence, practice context, and communicative competence—oriented future speech-language pathologists to three different sets of expectations about working with people with disabilities and socialized them to three different roles in their professional relationships. The approaches differed in the amount of focus on (a) the condition, (b) the individual with the condition, (c) the contexts of clinical practice, and (d) the contexts and purposes of communication. The approaches also differed in terms of (a) whose judgments count, (b) who has the capacity to act on those judgments, and (c) what strategies are legitimate within the context of the profession. Finally, the texts socialized students to varying degrees of acceptance or activism with regard to the identified goals, contexts, and boundaries of disability and SLP practice.

The results were considered in terms of the implementation of public policy. The interests of individuals with disabilities and the interests of the profession, as reflected in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) Code of Ethics' principle to hold paramount the welfare of individuals SLPs serve, were best represented in the approach that focused on the communicative competence of people who require assistance in communicating. The strategy identified to promote the perspectives in the communicative competence approach called for disability scholars and activists to lobby sympathetic professionals in ASHA and in SLP graduate education to have their voices heard.


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