If your child is receiving speech-language services, make sure you know if a trained, certified, or licensed individual is providing your child's speech therapy.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is very clear about expectations for speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs), what they can and what they cannot do. Learn about educational and training requirements for SLPAs.
Appropriate use and supervision of trained SLPAs can fill the gap often caused by a shortage of speech-language pathologists (SLPs).
Resources from ASHA
Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Scope of Practice
Responsibilities Within the Scope of Practice for SLPAs
Responsibilities Outside the Scope of Practice for SLPAs
Does Your Child Receive Speech-Language Therapy? Do You Know Who Provides These Services?
One of the most controversial posts we've published on the Wrightslaw Way Blog was "Do You Know Who is Providing Your Child's Speech-Language Therapy?" (Part 1)
If you thought we questioned SLPAs, their abilities, and qualifications, not so.
But, there are areas of concern for parents to consider.
IEP Lists SLP/staff as the Speech-Therapy Provider
The term "staff" may refer to anyone on the school staff who is willing to do speech therapy — including untrained substitutes, aides, and paraprofessionals. The list goes on.
Schools may use other terms for staff like: speech therapy substitute, speech language assistant, speech therapy assistant, speech clinician, communication aides, service extenders, and other support personnel.
ASHA notes the difference between levels of training and responsibilities for qualified SLPAs and other support personnel.
Substituting for an SLP
When an SLP is absent from school, or on extended leave, some schools use a sub from the teacher substitute list. Some subs may have minimal training in speech pathology. Others, no training at all.
This is not an SLP, an SLPA, or a licensed provider of speech therapy.
Subs are cheaper than licensed SLPs, for sure. In some states, teacher substitutes are only required to have a high school diploma, background check, and a TB test. Is this who you want to provide your child's speech-language therapy?
Fully Informed Parents
If you agree in the IEP to speech-language services for your child, you should be fully informed about what you are consenting to, including who will provide therapy services.
If not, you need to ask for clarification. Have the school note who will provide therapy. Or, make the notation yourself on the IEP and follow-up with a written note to the school confirming who the school said would provide services.
If your school does not have a licensed SLP available, or the SLP is out on leave, make sure you know who IS providing the service. If a qualified/supervised person is not available, you may consider compensatory makeup from a qualified provider.
ASHA Guidelines: Informing Clients
Individuals "shall not misrepresent the credentials" of assistants or support personnel and "shall inform those they serve of the name and professional credentials of persons providing services."
SLPAs must self-identify to students and families. SLPAs should not represent themselves as an SLP.
Can an SLPA replace a SLP? No.
According to ASHA, no one can employ an SLPA without a speech-language pathologist as supervisor. SLPAs are not trained for independent practice.
ASHA Guidelines for Supervision of Assistants
Know Your State Requirements
States have different regulations and requirements for speech-language support personnel. State laws may differ from ASHA's guidelines and requirements.
Some states do not have a definition of speech-language pathology assistant.
Some states regulate speech-language pathology and do not permit the use of speech-language pathology support personnel.
Get up to speed on your state regulations.