Support personnel assist speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in providing a variety of services in different work settings. Titles used to identify speech-language pathology support personnel vary by state and include, but are not limited to, speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA), SLP-Assistant, paraprofessional, speech aide, therapy assistant, and communication aide.
Differing levels of support personnel (e.g., aide, assistant, associate) may exist within and across work settings, states, or organizations. ASHA uses the term SLPA to refer to one category of support personnel with a specific scope of practice as detailed below. The SLPA Scope of Practice defines aides/technicians and assistants; these may not be consistent with the definitions used in individual states.
While ASHA endorses the use of trained and supervised support personnel, ASHA does not require the use of support personnel. SLPs should not be expected to use support personnel, particularly if they feel that quality of service may be compromised. ASHA expects SLPs to use support personnel in accordance with the ASHA Code of Ethics and may impose sanctions on SLPs if assistants are used inappropriately.
SLPAs and supervising SLPs are required to determine the specific requirements in their respective work settings and states. See ASHA's State-by-State page for the Summary of State Requirements for Support Personnel. ASHA's Model Bill for State Licensure (2012) [PDF] includes provisions relating to audiology and speech-language pathology assistants.
SLPs should consider the following when hiring or working with an SLPA:
- Appropriate training and supervision of SLPAs is to be provided by SLPs who hold ASHA's Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in Speech-Language Pathology.
- An SLP should not supervise or be listed as a supervisor for more than two full-time (FTE) SLPAs in any setting or combination thereof.
- Activities may be assigned only at the discretion of the supervising SLP and should be constrained by the Scope of Practice for SLPAs.
- The best interest and protection of the consumer should be paramount at all times.
- The purpose of the SLPA should not be to increase or reduce the caseload size for SLPs, but rather to assist SLPs in managing their existing caseloads. SLPAs should not have full responsibilities for a caseload or function autonomously. (ASHA, 2013)
SLPs must inform consumers when services are provided by support personnel. SLPs may delegate certain tasks to support personnel, but the SLP retains the legal and ethical responsibility for all services provided or omitted.
ASHA has established an Associate's Affiliation Program for support personnel in speech-language pathology and audiology open to individuals who
- are currently employed in support positions providing audiology or speech-language pathology services and working under the supervision of an ASHA-certified audiologist (CCC-A) or SLP (CCC-SLP) or have obtained the signature of the program director (or training program instructor) certifying that they are qualified to provide services under the direction of an ASHA-certified audiologist or speech-language pathologist; and
- are qualified to work as audiology or speech-language pathology support personnel in the state and follow the state licensure, registration, or certification rules (if any) that are applicable to them.
Applicants are required to obtain the signature of their ASHA-certified supervisors in order to become ASHA Associates.