Updated: Jan 23, 2022
Learn more about what's happening here:
Sign the petition here:
Feel free to copy/paste this letter template and send to the ASHA Ethics Board: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
2200 Research Blvd. #309
Rockville, MD 20850-3289
If an accountant has left-sided inattention following a traumatic brain injury, we use accounting ledgers to practice her visual scanning. When I work with a baker with aphasia, we practice calling their supplier to order new cupcake tins. I’m not doing baking therapy or accounting therapy—I’m providing treatment that directly addresses the client’s functional needs. - Laura Wolford, “Intimacy Is the Underdiscussed Functional Goal, (ASHA Leader, 2021).
Re: BE 21-060 Complaint Material and BE 21-060 Notice of Complaint Ltr
Katharine F. Meyer, Esq., Director of Ethics,
My name is Josephine Myers, a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Kansas, ASHA #14394839. I am writing this letter to publicly call on ASHA to dismiss the complaint issued by Dr. Paul R. Rao and entertained by the ethics committee against the esteemed Dr. Ianessa Humbert.
It is well known among Speech-Language-Hearing professionals that communication does not occur in a vacuum. Speech and swallowing disorders can affect daily life in a myriad of ways, including the bedroom. McGrath et al. found that after stroke, aphasic patients reported that their sexuality is silenced, that they can struggle to communicate sexual needs, and that health professionals fail to discuss the impact of stroke on sexuality. In turn, an effect on self-regard and self-image, as well as increased feelings of isolation and loneliness among stroke survivors was noted (2019). With the knowledge that sexuality plays such an important part in human connection, several SLPs have been working to break down barriers for patients to access the care that they deserve to improve their overall quality of life at the intersection of human sexuality and communication and swallowing disorders.
To do this important work, Speech-Language Pathologists have engaged in public collaboration with professionals in other disciplines, including sex educators, sexologists, and psychologists. This collaboration serves the purposes of educating and informing other professionals and the public on a topic that is often considered taboo, and improving the standard of care for patients experiencing difficulties regarding swallowing as it pertains to sex and intimate communication. It is well within the ASHA scope of practice and code of ethics for a certified SLP to participate in interdisciplinary collaboration to ensure quality service. In fact, it would be strictly against Principle I Rule B, “Individuals shall use every resource, including referral and/or interprofessional collaboration when appropriate, to ensure that quality service is provided,” for a swallowing expert like Dr. Ianessa Humbert to meet her patient(s) concerns about how their disorders can affect sexuality with silence, rather than opening the door to collaboration with qualified practitioners in other disciplines. The public nature of her collaborative efforts provides a blueprint for other professionals to follow when seeking information regarding this understudied and underdiscussed aspect of human connection and communication.
In the complaint filed by Dr. Paul R Rao, it is falsely claimed that Dr. Ianessa Humbert identifies herself as a sexologist or as an expert in sexology in connection with her ASHA credentials. In actuality, Dr. Humbert introduces herself as a swallowing expert and Speech-Language Pathologist in the instagram sessions “Bleck! Can I keep my Gag in Check?,” “Labia Love, Kissing & Cunnilingus,” “Get your Juices Flowing,” and “Flex Talk and Follow Up.” In her advocacy and educational content on instagram, Dr. Humbert’s lectures directly relate to her expertise as a swallowing expert. She provides similar educational content in her “Gaining Understanding about Love-Making & Physiology” Group (GULP Group). In no way does she claim to have expertise in the discipline of Sexology, rather, she is a collaborator working within her scope of practice in these educational projects and materials along with a sex educator, namely Reba C. Thomas.
Dr. Paul R Rao, in his complaint against Dr. Ianessa Humbert, claims that the term swallowologist “clearly has potentially caused consumer as well as ASHA practitioner confusion as to [sic] scope of her practice.” This is a gross overexaggeration, in that the term “swallowologist” in every likelihood would be more recognizable to a layperson than “dysphagia specialist.” Moreover, if ASHA were to publicly admonish a respected professional such as Dr. Ianessa Humbert for the use of this terminology, they should similarly admonish professionals using the terms “speechie,” “speech teacher,” “speech therapist,” and “voice therapist.” It is absurd to imagine that ASHA would publicly rebuke every SLP utilizing these terms, and it is equally absurd to think that they would do so to Dr. Humbert.
There is evidence of a double standard in how ASHA responds to professionals doing this work, especially considering the SLPs who discuss swallowing physiology related to sex and intimacy with ASHA’s blessing. There are SLPs in the field who also provide advice and information under their professional licensure and certification in relation to sex and swallowing physiology, notable examples including Laura Wolford, who published “Intimacy Is the Underdiscussed Functional Goal” in the ASHA leader in 2021, and Marcy Michaels, author of “The Lowdown on Going Down.” In particular, Laura Wolford has been recruited by ASHA to give talks and write on the topic of sexuality and the role of SLPs in ASHA publications. In contrast, Dr. Ianessa Humbert, doing the same work, has been publicly and professionally defamed.
It is my belief that these complaints were brought against Dr. Ianesssa Humbert in ill faith. The public nature of this complaint serves as a discriminatory admonition to Black professionals in the field, and the message this sends to professionals, students, and the public is in direct opposition to ASHA’s Envisioned Future where “under-represented populations are actively recruited and successfully retained; students and professionals are heard, respected, and safe.” When evidence of a double standard is so clear, we call on ASHA as our professional organization to choose a more active stance in rooting out ill-informed and racist remarks made against esteemed individuals in our field.
We will not allow Dr. Ianessa Humbert to be silenced.
University of Kansas & University of Kansas Medical Center
Intercampus Program in Communication Sciences & Disorders
Connections Chair, KU-NSSLHA
Graduate Research Assistant
Child Development Lab
University of Kansas Medical Center
Fellow, Project INSTRUCT
Department of Special Education &
Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences & Disorders
University of Kansas