Breanna Harrell

“BOYS CAN’T BE PRINCESSES”: An Understanding of Speech-Language Pathologists’ Perceptions of Gender Bias, LGBTQ+ Bias, and LGBTQ+ Related Issues When Working with Young Children

April 10, 2021   /  

Name: Breanna L. Harrell
Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders
Minor: Education
Advisors: Donald M. Goldberg, Ph.D., and Ahmet Atay

With the growing understanding and awareness surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals and the biases that they may face when accessing services, such as speech and language intervention, this study investigated gender bias and LGBTQ+ bias that may be held by Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) which can impact clinical services provided to pediatric clients and their family members. Additionally, this study investigated if SLPs have familiarity with terminology about gender identity, correct pronoun usage, gender bias, and LGBTQ+ related issues in clinical language assessments and practices. As Evans et al. (2018) notes while there is documented bias against African American children in language assessment there is limited research into other biases held by SLPs and the impact that these biases can have on clients. To discover if SLPs expressed LGBTQ+ biases a Qualtrics survey was sent to ASHA certified SLPs asking them to identify key terms and their perspectives on LGBTQ+understanding and bias and the impact this has in providing clinical services. Two of the major findings of this study included that SLPs acknowledge there is gender bias in language assessment and materials, and SLPs were open to the fact that a child can identify as a prince or princess no matter their gender assigned at birth.

Key Words: cisgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Plus (LGBTQ+), gender non-conforming, gender identity, gender fluidity, non-binary, bias, gender bias, transgender bias, LGBTQ+bias, pronouns, language assessment, and Speech-Language Pathology.

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Breanna will be online to field comments on April 16:
2-4pm EDT (PST: 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

59 thoughts on ““BOYS CAN’T BE PRINCESSES”: An Understanding of Speech-Language Pathologists’ Perceptions of Gender Bias, LGBTQ+ Bias, and LGBTQ+ Related Issues When Working with Young Children”

  1. Congratulations Bre! What an interesting and timely topic, thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. I really love your display and the knowledge you bring to the topic! Congratulations girl!

  3. Your research is fascinating, Bre! Your work has made me think about the importance of using inclusive language in my work as well. Congratulations on a successful IS!

    1. Wow that is amazing! I am glad that my study is bringing awareness to your work. That was my goal just knowing that people would be able to take a section to be aware of their personal bias even if it was unintentional and more importantly just making sure that they get ahead of the bias or eliminate it all together before it hurts someone. I appreciate this comment.

  4. Look at what you have accomplished and be darn proud! I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with you!!! Thank you for teaching me and for revising “one more time” with me!!!! Congratulations!!!

    1. A lot of this would not be possible without you. I appreciate you dealing with all of my mess to help me make sure that this gets done. You knew how much this topic meant to me and you pushed me to make sure I did my best work on this study, So thank you so much for everything.

  5. Fantastic project! The implications are so important, thank you for putting the time and energy into this project!!

  6. I cheered when I saw your IS title. What an important topic and very timely. Very proud of my profession seeing that you found that SLP’s are open to the concept that boys can be princesses and girls can be princes! Best to you in your continued work in the field!

  7. I cheered when I saw your IS title. What an important topic and very timely. Very proud of my profession seeing that you found that SLP’s are open to the concept that boys can be princesses and girls can be princes! Best to you in your continued work in the field! Perhaps you’ll be the one to create a non-biased, all inclusive language assessment tool! I look forward to using it!

    1. I am glad that you enjoyed my study. Maybe I could be the person who creates all inclusive assessment tools or books that would be so cool and if not me specifically I would be more than happy to work with people who can write books themselves. I never thought about doing something like that before thanks for bringing that up in your comment. Thank you for reading about my study

  8. Congratulations Bre! This is an amazing topic, and something that’s needed to be looked at in the CSD field. Great job!

  9. Congrats, Bre! I loved this topic from the start, and it was super interesting getting to read what you found through your research!

  10. Congratulations on your research project. It is timely – and your implications are very clear and important.

  11. Great job bringing awareness to this important topic, Bre! Maybe they can name the new and improved assessment tool after you 🙂 So happy for you on all your success. Congrats!

  12. Hello Breanna, I was wondering if you could give us more detail about the subject group you interviewed (#, age range, demographics, etc.), and if there were any surprises you found in your data collection that might lead or suggest further areas of study. I’m also curious if there was any unique dynamic around interracial or intraracial relationships and the way that gender-based language came into play.

    Really fascinating topic, but I’d love hear more!

    1. I am so sorry. My computer crashed in the middle of me responding to your comment. I will get back to you with all of the official numbers as soon as my computer is back on.

      For what I can tell you without official numbers is that I surveyed American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Certified Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs). Majority of the participants identified as white women. There were few minority participants in this study. This is solely because the SLP profession has a large demographic of white women. In my limitations, I noted that I wish I had not only asked for gender, but also whether they identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ Community. I think that would have made some of my results stronger because I would’ve potentially had another understanding of why SLPs agreed with my study. Also, I could’ve asked more specific questions. I did not specifically look at an age range. However, I did ask participants the length of time they were in the profession. In my limitations, I also noted that it would have been better to look at age range in order to note potentially why participants agreed with the study and part of it may have been because they have seen the changes throughout the years of the many assessment tools used in clinical therapy. Therefore they have more experience of how assessments are potentially biased towards gender and more specifically gender roles. My advisor has pointed out an example that I love that in his many years as an SLP and Audiologist that assessment tools even had examples of male plumbers. He also noted that just recently there were assessment tools created where women were plumbers. I love that example because it shows the efforts that have been made but also acknowledges that more work needs to be done. Overall, I was surprised that many SLPs were aware that language assessments displayed bias. I was most proud of the fact that many were able to find solutions of how to note their clients responses may have as possibly being influenced based on them being gender non-conforming or their families being gender non-conforming but considered “wrong” due to the question being gender bias. I’ve learned that it is not the fault of the clinician for marking a client “wrong” on an assessment because they simply cannot change the assessment, but the fact that they are noting a clients response to a gender biased question shows that the clinicians acknowledge that the client’s answer is not wrong it is just how they truly perceive what is being asked.

  13. Congrats Breanna! I agree there is bias in language assessment tools that we have available to us as SLPs! Did you focus on specific tests, or did you ask questions about tests in general?

    1. Initially, I wanted to look at specific tests, but I think my study evolved into something broader. What I mean is that I had to discuss that there is bias in assessment as a whole without attacking specific assessments. What’s interesting is that in my survey I asked SLPs if they knew of any language assessment materials that had gender bias and a great amount of them were able to identify these assessment tools and many identified some of the same assessment materials that displayed gender specificity. I was proud of that because while I did not focus on specific tests SLPs were able to, which let me know that not only were SLPs aware, but they were able to share the ones that they may have used with their clients.

  14. BRAVA, Bre! Great title and your implications are spot on. Makes me wonder about my sister’s occupational therapy field. I will ask!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I think you know everything is a learning experience. I hope that many SLPs read my study and become aware of potential bias and how they could offend others by making assumptions.

  15. Thank you for sharing your results! What was the catalyst for you choosing this topic? In preparation for your research, did you find anything in the literature that surprised you?

    1. I love this comment. So I am a CSD major. I knew my study had to be in relation to my major, but also something I had interest in. This study began for two reasons. I was on social media (Facebook specifically). I came across this disturbing picture of a women saying “I’m sick of this not my son” and it was a mother pulling her son out of a dress with a belt in her other hand. It was apart of the boys can be princesses too movement and I wanted to make sure that my topic was something similar to that because I shared my comments about how I felt about that graphic cartoon picture. I also noticed in a therapy session that a client was asked to put paper clothing on a cardboard boy or cardboard girl and the client placed a skirt on the cardboard boy. In my mind, I wanted to know what classified that as “wrong” and the clinician was very responsive in acknowledging that the clients choice was an okay response, but their initial response seemed as if it was wrong. So then I decided I wanted to look at potential personal bias that SLPs have towards clients who are gender non-conforming or have gender non-conforming families when conducting language assessments. It has revolved into so much more but that is where it began and I am proud of where it ended. My hope is that someone looks at my study and creates a more specific study based on the literature I have provided.

      I was not surprised until I conducted my survey because there was little to no literature on my research and I think that’s what makes my study so unique

  16. Wow, great work! I commend you for working so hard on a topic that hasn’t had a lot of attention! Hopefully other scholars can use your work and research in the future. Congratulations!

  17. Congratulations, Bre! After learning briefly about your project from your speech in January, it’s interesting to see how the project evolved.

    1. Thank you so much Dr. Furey. That means a lot to me coming from you. I really worked hard on this. All the stress was well worth it.

  18. Congratulations Bre! This is such an interesting and important topic, great research!

  19. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment!! such a interesting topic. So proud of you cant wait to see you go far!

  20. BRE!! YOU DID IT!! CONGRATULATIONS!! I am so so proud of you!! Images will miss you soo much! I can’t wait to see all you do in the future! Best of luck! Love you!

    1. Thank you so much Zoe! I will miss images as well y’all are my sisters I love you all to infinity ❤️

  21. Congratulations, Bre!!! This is a really interesting IS, and excellently presented. Thank you for all your leadership at Wooster – you have made a difference that will last here, for many generations of students to come.

    Wishing you all the very best for life after graduation – I know that you will do great things!!

    1. Thank you so much President Bolton! This means so much to me. I am glad that I got the chance to work with you to make this campus a better and safer space for all students. It has been a pleasure just knowing you and how much you love this campus. I appreciate you allowing us the opportunity to have a voice and create a change. You are such a great President, and I know the next students in line to create change will be very grateful to work with someone as awesome as you!

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