Mildred McGinnis (1892 - 1966)

Mildred McGinnis
Mildred McGinnis, 1950s (Photo courtesy of Central Institute for the Deaf)

Mildred McGinnis received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington University. She taught school in her native Alton, Illinois for a few years before joining the staff of Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) in 1916 (only two years after CID opened). In 1918 she became the first head of CID’s Department of Speech Correction, a position she held until her retirement in 1963. In 1922 McGinnis pioneered in the field of speech correction with the diagnosis of congenital aphasia in children and also with the development of a technique for effectively instructing such children. This teaching method was called the Association Method because it developed and associated systematically several specific skills that were necessary for the development of oral communication.

McGinnis had worked as a speech therapist with aphasic soldiers following the First World War. She noted the similarities between the speech and language disturbances experienced by adult soldiers who had received head injuries and the speech and language disturbances exhibited by some of her deaf students. This suggested to McGinnis the possibility of congenital aphasia in children. The method used for speech rehabilitation of aphasic adults was successfully modified to suit the needs of children. CID instructors and teachers trained at CID utilized the Association Method for over 40 years. In 1963 McGinnis’ book, Aphasic Children: Identification and Education by the Association Method, was published.

McGinnis was selected by the Group Action Council as one of 48 “St. Louis Women of Achievement” in 1947, and in 1955 the St. Louis Globe Democrat named her one of its first Ten Women of Achievement for her contributions in Education.