Advocacy—from the Latin advocare, meaning "to summon" or "to call to"—is a call to action.
Who is your advocate—your backer, proponent, champion? Whose advocate are you? Are you able to advocate effectively on the job? In what ways does ASHA support you and help you advocate for yourself and those you serve?
ASHA's new definition of advocacy—one of four pillars of the Association's Strategic Pathway to Excellence—goes far beyond public policy to encompass all areas of professional practice. At ASHA, being an advocate is now viewed as being an agent of positive change in communication sciences and disorders. In examining this expanded vision of advocacy, I am overwhelmed with the breadth and depth of ASHA's advocacy on behalf of members and the individuals we serve—in the activities of our volunteer committees and boards and by every team at the National Office.
ASHA is now embracing many areas of advocacy. Consider how you might advocate for yourself, your clients, and your discipline in one or more of these areas:
- Beneficial changes in legislation and regulation, including fair reimbursement, comprehensive coverage for clients, and more funding for research, health, and education
- High professional standards
- Wider access to services
- Improved work environments
- Broader public outreach and education
- Increased numbers of males and people of color in the discipline
- Effective representation with governmental, regulatory, and cross-professional groups
- Response to professional encroachment
In this brief column, I cannot do justice to the breadth of ASHA programs that serve your advocacy needs—instead, see the box at the end of this article for a link to a complete list of ASHA's advocacy resources. Advocacy is a call to action, and only through participating can you see positive changes that will help you, your profession, and the broader discipline.
Models of Advocacy
Three amazing ASHA advocates—Cate Crowley, Terese Finitzo, and Charlette Green—have created stellar career paths while making a positive impact on clients and our professional community. Their stories of self-empowerment and effective use of ASHA resources underscore what each of us can do to make our professional lives more effective and fulfilling while helping others and promoting our discipline.
Cate Crowley chairs the New York State Licensure Board for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. "My advocacy is rooted in the desire to improve the quality of services for low-income children and adolescents. Everything else evolves from that," she said. She helped organize a broad stakeholders' meeting to address the issue of professional shortages, used ASHA staff and resources, and later attended a national ASHA seminar on shortages. Crowley also chaired a Multicultural Affairs Board committee that drafted a knowledge and skills document related to providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services. "ASHA documents set the standard for clinicians in terms of evidenced-based practice," she said.
Terese Finitzo is a pediatric audiologist and CEO of OZ Systems, which she founded in 1996 with partner Ken Pool to ensure that newborns were screened for hearing loss and connected to appropriate follow-up care. Finitzo said that her company, which focuses on accountability, was significantly influenced by her involvement in developing ASHA's model bill on early hearing detection and intervention and by her work as a member and chair of the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing. OZ Systems now offers newborn bloodspot screening information management and early childhood intervention and education systems to international customers, states, individual hospitals, preschools, and elementary schools. In England her system supports the world's largest newborn hearing-screening program. Finitzo said her experience on an ASHA Agency for Healthcare Research Quality committee taught her that "accountability and data were the key to convincing skeptical legislators to fund Texas' newborn hearing screening program and to persuade pediatricians and other important stakeholders to support the legislation."
Charlette Green, Georgia's state speech/language impairments consultant, is responsible for the development of the Georgia Department of Education's statewide training program for SLPs and kindergarten teachers. "As the state speech-language consultant, I serve as a bridge between federal/state regulations, research/best practice, and the real world for SLPs in Georgia's public schools," Green said. The program has raised the language/preliteracy and academic preparedness skills of students throughout the state. "Being an advocate is an inherent part of my job," she said. "My first responsibility is to ensure that Georgia students get the support that they need to access and progress in their curriculum. Secondly, I have an obligation to support, train, and advocate for my fellow SLPs." As a founding member of the ASHA School Finance Committee, she helped create a document on school funding advocacy and also used communication tips included in ASHA's "Advocacy in Action: State Model for Change."
These remarkable professionals demonstrate the four building blocks of successful advocacy: accountability, knowledge, preparation, and information. They have developed trusting relationships with decision-makers and have worked closely with ASHA volunteer members and staff to enrich their professional lives and maximize the impact of their advocacy.
Learn from their paths, and follow your own star. Take time to consider how you could be more effective or your work setting more supportive—and please explore the resources ASHA offers to help you accomplish your professional goals.
ASHA's Advocacy Toolbox
To access ASHA's complete listing of advocacy resources, visit the ASHA Web site and enter "self advocacy" in the search box.