An increase in the demand for language instruction and intervention for students with a variety of language-learning issues, coupled with shortages of speech-language pathologists in California, created a situation familiar to others throughout the country: the struggle to hold strong by the standards and requirements for SLPs, without allowing others to encroach on our scope of practice.
The need to assist and support children in language, literacy, and learning had created a cataclysmic crisis in California. Ultimately, the situation has been addressed through the joint work of ASHA and the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA) in collaboration with educators in the state concerned about addressing the needs of a variety of students: those who are English learners, need enriched language and literacy instruction, or are in response-to-intervention programs. The California situation, however, is confusing because the process has had many twists and turns.
A short history: Initially, in 2008, a proposal for a Communication Development credential was strongly opposed by ASHA and CSHA (see sidebar at right). The battle against this proposal was contentious and often bitter. Ultimately, the credential was defeated.
Subsequently, ASHA and CSHA leaders worked together to address the concerns raised by administrators, parents, and SLPs. All stakeholders together developed a teacher credential (known as an Education Specialist Credential) called the Language and Academic Development (LAD) credential. The regulations for this teaching credential—which includes specific training—became law in California on Sept. 3, 2011. To date, no university in California has developed an LAD curriculum or training program.
Licensing and credentialing, and the bodies that govern them, are different in each state. In California, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing—an independent body—is responsible for authorizing and issuing credentials for individuals who work in schools, including teachers, administrators, and specialists. The commission reviews these credentials every 20 years to keep the training of school personnel current.
The Back Story
The 2008 Communication Development credential was proposed during one of these reviews. It was disturbing to the speech-language and hearing community because it clearly intended to take specific duties and responsibilities from SLPs and assign them to Communication Development teachers.
The proposed Communication Development credential was flawed on many levels and ultimately failed, but the initial concerns remained: primarily, how to provide better prevention and intervention to students with language development and language and literacy needs. SLPs have, in fact, often lamented that children would be better served if teachers were better trained in language and literacy. SLPs know and often discuss that they need educated partners to help take on challenges facing students.
It should be noted that although most of the focus at the time was on the Communication Development credential proposal, the commission did, at the same time, approve the language and regulations for the California Speech-Language Pathology Services credential—with all the CSHA recommendations that were aligned to ASHA standards.
Following the defeat of the 2008 Communication Development credential, representatives from interested groups, including the commission, school administrators, special educators, CSHA, and ASHA, formed a working group to collaborate on the development of an Education Specialist credential that would train teachers with greater education in language and literacy. The California groups reached out to CSHA to help design a credential that would better serve all students who have disabilities and language and literacy learning issues. The Language and Academic Development (LAD) credential represents the joint work between the credentialing commission and the associations, with support and input from ASHA. All members of the working group were aware that regulatory language was needed to prevent abuses and address the concerns of the speech and hearing community.
According to the credentialing commission, the LAD credential is intended for the following purposes:
- To enhance skills in literacy, language, and communication for students with special needs.
- To focus on communication, language, and literacy to serve students with special needs in an instructional setting.
- Reasons for the need for the credential include:
- Outdated special education credentials that did not focus on language and literacy development in the training program.
- Increased emphasis on the importance of language in instructional programs.
- Increased emphasis on academic language.
- Increase in students in California who are English learners.
- Increase in students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and the associated need for teachers with language and literacy expertise.
- Increased focus on literacy in schools.
- California adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which include listening and speaking standards.
- Legislative mandates for academic achievement of students with disabilities.
SLPs know that many students in schools have language needs but do not receive speech and language services, and that students with speech-language impairment may need additional academic support beyond what the SLP can provide. SLPs are increasingly involved in teaming and collaboration with other disciplines in language, literacy, and academic issues to support students. The LAD is intended to provide advanced training for teachers, and is not intended to replace SLPs; rather, the LAD specialist—envisioned as a blend of reading and special education specialists—would potentially work in conjunction with the SLP to serve students more effectively.
In the design of the credential, specific and intentional authorizing language was placed to ensure that the LAD would not be used to replace SLPs or speech-language services, including:
- "Development authorizes the holder to provide instructional services to students with academic communication and language needs but it does not take the place of speech and language services" (C&CA 6A-19).
- "Students who are eligible under the category of speech and language impairment may receive instructional services from the holder of the LAD authorization for academic support, in addition to, not instead of, speech and language services" (C&CA 6A-2).
- The LAD teacher is authorized to provide special education support, but the regulations specifically state that "Special education support does not include providing language, speech, and hearing therapy, orientation and mobility, or audiology services" (C&CA 6A-16).
The California Office of Administrative Law approved the revised credential in August 2011. Those who hold this credential may provide instructional services within content areas to students with special needs. They may not administer diagnostic tests to determine if a student has a speech and/or language disorder.
Although the credential has been in place for a year, it has not affected California's school-based SLPs:
- The LAD is an Education Specialist credential, for special education teachers.
- The LAD is not an "add-on" to an existing certification. Earning the certificate requires specific academic preparation in a university teacher-training program or issuance from an authorized district or county office.
- ASHA policy-watchers are unaware of any LAD training programs approved or initiated by university teacher-training programs, perhaps because of economic conditions in California.
CSHA and ASHA understand that the credential is of concern for some members—who fear LAD teachers will replace SLPs in some school settings—but emphasize the efforts taken to address these concerns. Any violations of the regulations should be reported to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Webinars and other information, including FAQs developed by the working group, are available at the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website.