The Special Interest Groups (SIGs) program evolved in response to the diverse interests and needs of members of ASHA in narrow subtopics and practices within and across the discipline of communication sciences and disorders (CSD). The program was created to promote specific professional interests among members, develop communication and networking in diverse professional settings, identify and convey concerns and needs to the Association’s governance, and assist in policy formation.
The SIGs are integral to and integrated within ASHA. SIG activities are coordinated with other ASHA activities under the guidance of the Board of Special Interest Group Coordinators (BSIGC), the ASHA Board of Directors (BOD) through the BOD Liaisons, and the SIGs program within the ASHA National Office.
SIGs have been established for the exchange of professional and scientific information. These groups offer ASHA Members the means to
Affiliation with one or more SIGs is a benefit of ASHA membership, and the SIGs are dedicated to the professional concerns of those members and of the Association as a whole. The SIGs serve as a resource to the Association for the purpose of carrying out activities and programs designed to address the needs of the CSD discipline and, ultimately, its clients—persons with communication impairments.
The vision of the ASHA SIGs program is as follows:
Making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all by engaging ASHA Members in communities that foster professional excellence
The mission of the ASHA SIGs program is to advance the Association's mission by engaging members in SIGs that foster the interchange of information among ASHA and the NSSLHA members and SIG Affiliates who share common professional interests.
Between 1986 and 1990, the Special Interest Divisions program was created primarily as a value-added benefit for ASHA Members. Over the years, the program enjoyed great success in terms of steadily expanding membership and benefits in many areas (e.g., professional development opportunities, web events, and financial and other support for ASHA, NSSLHA, and ASHFoundation grants and programs.) These programs served not only Divisions Affiliates but also the broader membership as well as related professional entities (and, by extension, the CSD discipline and the clients of the practitioners within that discipline).
In 1991, ASHA disseminated a document titled A Plan for the Special Interest Divisions and Study Sections, establishing ASHA’s Special Interest Divisions program.
Between 2008 and 2010, the Task Force on Division Structure, Programs, and Operations examined and made recommendations to modify the Special Interest Program to (a) foster a community-based approach, (b) increase member involvement, (c) align goals with the Association's strategic plans, and (d) fully integrate the Divisions into the Association financially and programmatically.