Here at The Orange Effect Foundation, our goal is to make a difference in the lives of children whose families cannot afford speech therapy or a device for communication. One of the things we love is learning about programs designed to help those who may not have access to resources many of us take for granted.
Similarly, ASHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, recognizes the need for diversity in their accredited therapists. There are over 120,000 speech therapists. There are some definite barriers in diversity that need to be overcome. For example, 80% of speech therapists are women. Additionally, 80% are white.
As for their clients, according to one study, boys ages 3-17 are more likely than girls to have a voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorder. This demonstrates the need for greater diversity among speech therapists.
One of the amazing things that ASHA is doing is funding the IMPACT program. IMPACT is a year-long mentoring program designed to provide students from underrepresented minority groups at Hampton University (HU) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) with access to diverse Communication Sciences and Disorders (COSI/CSD) professionals, exposure to research opportunities, and graduate school preparation.
The IMPACT program will prepare students for acceptance into top SLP and audiology graduate programs and build future leaders who understand and embody inclusion, diversity, and compassion. Students will receive GRE preparation materials. There is no cost to the student for the included activities.
Among those activities, students participate in a cultural empathy book club, Complete CITI training for research participation, and get assistance applying for grad school.
Breaking gender and racial barriers in a profession is not new. The school leaders’ union NAHT recommends that there needs to be more male role models for children in early education, as only 3% of teachers in this field are men. NAHT is considering similar programs and training to help break the stigma that teaching is only a woman’s job.
One of the advantages that the speech therapy field has however, is that salaries are very close to equal for both male and female therapists, unlike other industries. It is one less hurdle to overcome for the speech therapy field as it initiates programs like IMPACT to bring much needed diversity to the occupation.
If you work with students, or know a student who would excel as a speech therapist, please consider referring them to the IMPACT program.