This page focuses on caseload and workload issues specific to the school-based speech-language pathologist (SLP). Many of the topics discussed in this page are also relevant for professionals in a variety of other settings.

Caseload refers to the number of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs), and 504 plans served by school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and other professionals through direct and/or indirect service delivery options. In some school districts, caseloads may also include students who receive intervention and other services within general education designed to help prevent future difficulties with speech, language learning, and literacy. Caseloads can also be quantified in terms of the number of intervention sessions in a given time frame.

Workload refers to all activities required and performed by school-based SLPs. Workload includes the time spent providing face-to-face direct services to students as well as the time spent performing other activities necessary to support students' education programs, implement best practices for school speech-language services, and ensure compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA, 2004) and other mandates.

Traditionally, a school SLP's workload has been conceptualized as almost exclusively synonymous with caseload; the reality is that caseload is only one part of the picture. When a student is added to a caseload for direct services, significant amounts of time within the school day, week, or month must be allocated for additional important and necessary workload activities.

The total number of workload activities required and performed by school-based SLPs should be taken into account when establishing caseloads. ASHA recommends taking a workload analysis approach to setting caseloads to ensure that students receive the services they need to support their educational programs (ASHA, 2002).

In the past, ASHA has recommended a maximum caseload number. However, some states and districts interpreted the number as a minimum rather than a maximum. Others ignored the recommendation, citing that there is no research to support a specific caseload size.

ASHA no longer recommends a specific caseload number for the following reasons:

  • There is no research to support a specific caseload size.
  • The needs of students receiving speech-language services vary greatly, and a specific caseload number does not take into account this variation. For example, a caseload of 40 students with very mild communication disorders could be manageable, whereas a caseload of 40 students with severe disabilities is not likely to support the provision of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

For these reasons, ASHA encourages assignment of SLPs based on workload rather than caseload.

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.