After three years of undergraduate deliberation, I finally
decided on my field of choice: public relations. But after graduating in 2008,
I was never able to say I loved my corporate job. And as much as I enjoyed the
customer interaction, downtown Houston skyline and flexible hours that came
with various corporate and retail jobs, I wasn't satisfied. As cliché as it sounds, I wasn't satisfying my innate desire to make a difference in others' lives.
When I learned more about the field of speech-language
pathology—the one-on-one care I'd be able to provide, the various settings and the compensation—I decided that this would be a perfect fit for me. Soon after, I enrolled in the University of Houston's post-baccalaureate program. When I wasn't accepted into a speech-language pathology graduate program—my grades were good, but I suspect not good enough—I chose to become a speech-language pathology assistant.
Before I decided to pursue the SLPA route, I assumed the
role would potentially limit my skills and talents, but it turned out I was
wrong. In fact, my skills make room for the responsibilities, and the rewards
I have the privilege of taking ownership of my work because
I provide direct services. But this freedom calls for accountability: I must
also ensure that clients are receiving assessments, counsel and goals set forth by those who are highest qualified—SLPs. As the
need for SLPAs increases, so does the need for specific guidance from ASHA
regarding SLPA practice and corresponding SLP supervision—hence the development
of ASHA's "Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Scope of Practice," approved by
ASHA's Board of Directors in January.
This document provides guidance to SLPAs and their
supervisors on ethical considerations, addresses how SLPAs should be employed,
and defines SLPAs' responsibilities within and outside their roles in clinical practice. The scope of practice sets out a number of requirements and responsibilities for SLPAs:
SLPAs must perform only tasks prescribed by the SLP. I am
fortunate to be under the supervision of Kristie Bruns of Smilestones Pediatric
Therapy, who asked me initially to assist her during her third pregnancy. As
she creates goals for our clients and I provide services, I learn from her
SLPAs should actively participate in the supervisory
process. Because ASHA requires supervision, I am privileged to receive
one-on-one mentoring from Kristie every workday.
SLPAs should document student, patient and client
performance and report this information to the supervising SLP. Using a
template created by my supervisor, I document each client visit and give her
the original. This helps provide an accurate picture of a client's progress.
SLPAs should assist with clerical duties—such as preparing
materials and scheduling activities—as directed by the SLP. I get to be
creative as I help plan treatment, based on goals set by my supervisor. This is
fun and challenging, and contributes to my sense of ownership.
SLPAs should advocate for individuals and families through
community awareness, health literacy, education and training programs to
promote and facilitate access to full participation in communication, including
the elimination of societal, cultural and linguistic barriers. Not only am I
providing services, but my voice as an SLPA is valued. I also work as a
substitute teacher, and I support this requirement as I encourage interaction
among typically developing students and those with special needs.
Now, by improving the communication and overall well-being
of those in need, I am finally fulfilling that innate desire to make a
difference in the lives of others. I would be hard-pressed to find this
opportunity as an assistant in any other field.