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The Voice of the SLP Assistant

Keep Calm and Stay Optimistic
October 28, 2015 9:05 AM by Rachel Miller

As speech-Language professionals many of us face struggles every day as we meet and work with those new and challenging clients.  Whether it’s finding and practicing new therapy strategies to help our clients reach their target goals or identifying additional needs as they arise.  We all face them and most of us every day. 

What you do does matter and makes a difference in the people’s lives you touch.  From a personal level to a professional level, your attitude makes a world of difference one individual at a time.  Although we face trials from time to time, staying optimistic and being positive are qualities that will shine through in everything you do.  You can never be thanked enough and many of you do not receive the credit that is due to you.  I say this to assure you that even on the hard days you must keep up the good fight, and no matter what obstacles you may encounter as a speech-language professional or as an individual, never stop fighting for yourself and the quality of care that your client deserves.

This past year I found myself in a battle of my own.  In addition to fighting for national recognition of the speech-language-pathology assistant (SLPA), serving my clients and applying to grad schools, I learned at the end of March my life would never be the same.  I experienced a whirlwind of emotions as I learned within the same week that I had been accepted into the Graduate SLP program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as well as being diagnosed with breast cancer. 

No one can ever be prepared for that awful, dreadful “c” word.  As for my future career I was exactly where I wanted to be.  I long for nothing more than to work professionally as a speech-language pathologist.  Helping others is my calling.  In addition to working with my clients as an SLPA, I also wanted to continue to advocate for the SLPA, and was working on submitting to ASHA a ‘call-for-papers’ to present and hopefully gain more support of ASHA in seeing that the SLPA gain the recognition that we deserve.  However, our plans are not always God’s plans and I find peace in knowing that an even bigger “C” is fighting these battles with me. And although grad school must be put on hold for another year, I am grateful for the support I received from my friends, family, professors and colleagues as I started on my own road to recovery to beat this awful disease.  While, in the meantime continuing my advocacy efforts and decreasing my workload. With time passing by I count my blessings every day and have a bigger passion to reach out and help others in any way I can.  During this time I am grateful I am still able to see a few clients, help others who are also fighting this terrible disease, and hopefully make a difference whenever I can.  I am surrounded by prayers, hope and faith as I stay optimistic that the end of this trial is in sight. 

I can’t imagine better way to celebrate this, than having received confirmation that my colleagues and I will be presenting a “Trailblazer Session” on the role of speech-language pathology assistants at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) 2015 Annual Convention, to be held Nov. 12-14 in Denver. “Changing Minds…Changing Lives…Leading the Way”, is the theme ASHA’s convention, and I could not think of a better slogan as we lead the way to changing lives every day.  This is how to find us at the ASHA convention:

Topic Area: Business, Management, Ethical and Professional Issues
Session Number: 1445
Title: The Speech-Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA): Past, Present, & Future
Session Format: Seminar 1-hour
Day: Friday, Nov. 13, 2015
Time: 3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Author(s): Rachel Miller, (Author who will be presenting at the session), Robert Mayo (Author who will be presenting at the session), Jill McManigal (Author who will be presenting at the session), Denise Tucker (Author who will be presenting at the session) and Celia Hooper.

There is nothing more satisfying than to be able to make a difference or to help others wherever and whenever the need arises.  As speech-language professionals we live to help others communicate, for what would a life be without the ability to communicate?  Our passion usually spills out to helping others around us, especially as I find myself advocating for SLPAs nationwide.  As an unknown author once wrote, “If nothing ever changed there’d be no butterflies.” 

It is time for a change for the SLPA and I hope to see a large turnout as we meet in Denver.  I look forward to laying to rest the current controversies that surround the use of the SLP Assistant and look towards the future, leaving behind the past.  As the world evolves and changes around us, we must do so as well, not only for what is right but to ensure the best possible care for the clients we serve. Never stop fighting for what you believe in!

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The Brief History of the SLPA
February 23, 2015 3:07 PM by Rachel Miller
The Speech-Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA) has been seen in the background in a supportive capacity for nearly fifty years without appropriate national accreditation.  Unlike their allied health sister organizations like the Physical Therapy Assistant or Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, the SLPA has been denied any comparable sanctions which would support continuity among rules and regulations regarding registration on a national basis. With support from  American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA),Council for Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD), state associations, and advocates alike, we can ensure that states are overseeing a coherently applied national set of rules and regulations, not only to benefit the SLPA but to ensure quality of care to the clients we serve.  The SLPA should sit beside their sister paraprofessionals, in a place they should have been all along. This would certify that the SLPA are commensurate to others in their field receiving the credibility, support from that association, partnership, and the respect they deserve.

The United States Department of Labor, Bureau Statistics, reported in 2012 that nationwide 134,000 Speech-Language Pathologist were employed across our nation, with the expected outlook of growth to be "faster than average."1

Interestingly enough ASHA did start and initiate a process, in 2000, to nationally accredit the SLPA.  ASHA put into effect a procedure towards the development of an approval process finally giving, recognizing, and credentialing the SLPA (ASHA, Defining SLPAs, 2013).  Providing a standard and approval process of SLPA training programs would be the forefront of subject matters, as registration procedures were put into motion in January 2002.  Sadly, the approval process for the SLPA, lasted less than a year and was abruptly ended in 2003, as quickly as it had started (ASHA, Defining SLPAs, 2013).  This short lived triumph for the SLPA was felt harshly by SLPAs everywhere, as ASHA's swift recant of credentialing the SLPA, was finalized at its Legislative Council meeting in December, 2003, by only ONE vote shy of triumph and thereby bringing to a halt the approval process for training programs and registration processes of the SLPA, with ASHA claiming withdrawal "primarily due to financial reasons" (ASHA, Scope of Practice. 2013). 

A bright and hopeful future is on the horizon, Will you help in assisting to persuade ASHA in making the correct choice that was only one vote away 15 years ago? Below is a link to a petition started to serve in an advocate capacity, with hopes to empower ASHA to begin an accreditation process, to help resolve the current controversies surrounding the SLPA and begin focusing on what we can do to balance the shortage of professionals in our field.  To date, the attached petition has had an overwhelming and ongoing responses of over 500 advocates who have shown their support for the much needed National Accreditation of the SLPA.  The tides are turning as we advance into the 21st century as the outlook for the SLPA is improving and professionals are more respondent to this needed change.  

It is my deepest hope that we may all work together and be a part of the process showing support in every avenue we approach.  I implore you to advocate with me, to play a supportive role in encouraging our governing boards to begin a process of credibility and a licensure/registration process for the SLPA once and for all.  One that will be recognized at the national level it deserves, to ensure the appropriate rules and regulations be set into place for the improvement of these dilemmas as we face them together and nationwide. 

Stay tuned to read more about the research and findings on the inconsistency in educational requirements and the history behind the SLPA in, "The Past, Present & Future of the SLP Assistant" an upcoming article to be posted by ADVANCE in April-May of 2015.  To sign the petition, showing your support in our advocacy efforts, encouraging ASHA to take the necessary steps, and once again start procedures to nationally accredit the SLPA, please click here. Thank you in advance for your support!!