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BYU forces end to transgender speech therapies

Brigham Young University administrators required their Department of Communication Disorders to end all voice and communication services at its Speech and Language Clinic for transgender clients.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association said the decision runs contrary to the ASHA Code of Ethics (2016).

“ASHA recognizes gender-affirming voice and communication services for transgender and gender diverse populations within the speech-language pathology scope of practice,” ASHA wrote in a statement. “ASHA members provide vital clinical services to gender diverse populations who may have voice or other speech-language disorders unrelated to their gender, as well as services to individuals whose voices do not reflect their gender.”

Transgender individuals who attempt to modify their voice without a trained speech-language pathologist, the group says, risk permanent damage to their vocal cords. Further, without appropriate services, transgender people are at an increased risk for related mental health challenges.

“Ensuring treatment for all individuals in need of speech, language, hearing, and related services —including transgender individuals — is consistent with ASHA’s Code of Ethics,” the group continued.

“Individuals shall not discriminate in the delivery of professional services or in the conduct of research and scholarly activities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity/gender expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, disability, culture, language or dialect,” reads Principle I, Rule C of the ASHA Code of Ethics.

They say BYU is putting its certified speech-language pathologists in an “untenable position,” directing them to act in a manner contrary to their responsibilities under the ASHA Code of Ethics.

The group also says that the school is not acting in a way that aligns with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ policies and guidelines.

“According to section 38.6.23 of the General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘transgender individuals face complex challenges. Members and nonmembers who identify as transgender — and their family and friends — should be treated with sensitivity, kindness, compassion, and an abundance of Christlike love.’”

On the BYU Department of Communication Disorders website, it shows that the program is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.

CAA accreditation standards require academic programs to provide content and opportunities for students to learn to practice in a manner consistent with recognized standards of ethical practice and relevant federal and state regulations, and that students are prepared to understand the health care and education landscapes and how to facilitate access to services.

“Students graduating from CAA-accredited programs must understand the impact of their cultural and linguistic variables on the delivery of effective care, along with the impact of those variables for their clients,” ASHA’s statement says. “CAA-accredited programs must ensure students show evidence of care, compassion, and appropriate empathy during interactions with everyone served.”

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