Friday, January 15, 2010

Is ASHA violating its Code of Ethics?

Ethical conduct, guided by a code of ethics and re-enforced by a compliance procedure, is essential for any profession. Peter Reitzes from Stutter Talk has written to the board of the American Speech and Hearing Association expressing his concerns about the guarantees made by LinguiSystems about their stuttering therapy aids.

I am especially troubled by the response attributed to ASHA:
LinguiSystems is a multi-million dollar company and that ASHA does not want to risk alienating them.
ASHA must uphold the highest professional standards, which dictate that the ultimate beneficiaries of a policy must be the patient. Or, are they saying that they value other interests higher than the patient's welfare? And conflicts of interests need to be fully and prominently disclosed in an easily understandable manner.

Here is Peter's letter.
January 15, 2010

ASHA Board of Directors:

As a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and DIV4 (Division 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders) and as a co-host of the StutterTalk podcast, I want to share some concerns I have regarding the LinguiSystems website and how materials are being promoted by claiming they are “guaranteed to work.” (
LinguiSystems' co-owners, Linda Bowers and Rosemary Huisingh, are both speech-language pathologists and ASHA members and are therefore bound by our ASHA Code of Ethics.

One of LinguiSystems products “Fluency Card Games” is being promoted with a guaranteed outcome to “Speak Confidently” ( Another LinguiSystems product “Easy Does It® for Fluency: Preschool/Primary” is being promoted with guaranteed outcomes to “Maintain fluency in increasingly longer utterances” and to “Use easy speech in real-life speaking situations.” (

According to American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Code of Ethics (
“Individuals shall not guarantee the results of any treatment or procedure, directly or by implication...”, “Individuals' statements to the public…shall not contain misrepresentations”, “Individuals shall not misrepresent…products dispensed...” and “Individuals shall not engage in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation…” On the surface it appears that some promotions used by LinguiSystems, a company owned by two ASHA certified speech-language pathologists, may directly violate the ASHA Code of Ethics in regards to their guaranteed outcomes.

It is important to note that ASHA and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation receive revenue from LinguiSystems. For example, The ASHA Leader runs LinguiSystems advertisements, LinguiSystems is a vendor at ASHA conventions and LinguiSystems gives tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation prominently displays and promotes the LinguiSystems logo and website (

On January 13, 2010 I contacted ASHA and spoke to David Denton, the Director of Ethics, Rick Henderson, ASHA’s Director of Marketing and Sales, Pam Leppin from Advertising and Barbara Lecker from Corporate Partnership and Sponsorship. One comment really stood out. When I was speaking to Mr. Henderson, Ms. Leppin and Ms. Lecker I was told that LinguiSystems is a multi-million dollar company and that ASHA does not want to risk alienating them. I stated that all ASHA members, whether they own multi-million dollar companies or not, should be held equally accountable for their actions under ASHA’s Code of Ethics. I encouraged Mr. Denton, Mr. Henderson, Ms. Leppin and Ms. Lecker to look carefully at these matters. I encouraged them to look closely at ASHA’s Code of Ethics. In turn, I was encouraged to contact the ASHA Leadership regarding these matters which I am doing now.

It is my strong belief that ASHA’s Board of Directors should take a close look at these matters and should strongly consider opening investigations.

In addition, I am formally inviting ASHA’s President Dr. Tommie L. Robinson to be a guest on the StutterTalk podcast so that we can openly and publicly discuss the matters raised in this letter. Please let me know if Dr. Robinson will accept my invitation.


Peter Reitzes, MA CCC-SLP
Co-host, podcast


Leys Geddes said...

This time last year, I was in contact with ASHA, seeking their support in our campaign against organisations making entirely unsupported stammering 'cure' treatment claims. I was specifically asking ASHA to write to Google to ask them to stop accepting, and profiting from, these kinds of ads. We had already had full support, and letters had been sent, from many authoritative people and organisations in the UK - including, in particular, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, our equivalent of ASHA - and many in the US, too. But ASHA responded by saying that, although they agreed with our efforts, 'advertising in the United States has a history of “buyers beware.” Just look at all the diet products sold not only by Google, but widely advertised on television. This may be the reason that we have not had any complaints about this particular issue from our members here in the U.S.'

We were (shall I say?) disappointed with this attitude and ASHA's refusal to do anything. This case seems to another example of their reluctance to take responsibility and demonstrate leadership.

Chair, British Stammering Association

Dave Rowley said...

Some people would say that everything's for sale - I think you've just found ASHA's price!

Anonymous said...

Anyone can write a reader's response or comment about ASHA-related issues in the ASHA Leader (the biweekly magazine that is mailed to all ASHA members). Just submit to and see if they publish it and respond.

Examples are here:

Charles L. said...

This doesn't surprise me at all You can read much more about ASHA at the following: