Assistants Certification Program

The Decision

The ASHA Board of Directors voted 14–0 on November 2, 2017, in favor of approving funding and implementation of the Assistants Certification Program for audiology assistants and speech-language pathology assistants. This program will support audiology assistants and speech-language pathology assistants working as support personnel within the continuum of service delivery, and it will support the ASHA-certified members and certificate holders who supervise these individuals as well. 

The History

The value of support personnel in the field of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) is not a new concept. Indeed, audiology assistants and speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) have played a key role in service delivery since the 1960s, and ASHA has been issuing reports and policy documents to manage support personnel since that time.

Although the concept of support personnel in CSD is not new, what has changed is that, due to the shortage of qualified, licensed audiologists and speech-language pathologists, the utilization of support personnel has become more common—and it is likely to continue to grow from here.

Over time, ASHA has progressively expanded its support for these professions:

  •  In 2002 and 2003, ASHA had a credentialing program for SLPA training programs and a voluntary registration program for SLPAs.
  • In 2011, ASHA launched the Associates Program as a way for SLPAs and audiology assistants to join as affiliates. This program was a 5-year pilot program and was to be evaluated at the end of that term. 
  • In 2015, the ASHA Board of Directors voted to make the Associates Program an ongoing program of ASHA. Also, the BOD felt that we should look for some standardization of requirements for audiology assistants and SLPAs and thus it approved a feasibility study regarding the potential of credentialing assistants. 

The feasibility studies (one for SLPAs and one for audiology assistants) were completed in 2016, with the following summary recommendations:

  • The majority of respondents believed a national credential for audiology assistants and SLPAs would have a positive impact on client service delivery.
  • The advantages to audiologists and SLPs of working with assistants outweigh the challenges.
  • A national audiology assistant and SLPA credential could have multiple benefits for supervisors and employers.
  • The vast majority of respondents believe ASHA is an appropriate entity to provide assistant certification.
  • The inconsistency in audiology assistant and SLPA qualifications and ability levels poses a challenge to the use (and credentialing) of assistants.
  • There remains a need for resources to help supervisors and assistants to work together effectively to provide client services.

The ASHA Board of Directors reviewed the results of the feasibility studies in January 2017 and asked the Council For Clinical Certification (CFCC) to submit a resolution to create an Assistants Certification Program.

The CFCC then reviewed the request at their February 2017 meeting and sought out proposals from organizations offering the full range of services necessary to launch a new credential.

The Timeline 

The basic timeline for the Assistants Certification Program would be as follows:

  • We will begin the discovery process in 2018. 
  • In 2019–2020 we will develop and validate standards and the examination. 
  • ASHA anticipates launching the Assistants Certification Program and examination by the end of 2020.
  • We will be marketing and promoting the Assistant Certification Program throughout each year.

The Summary

In summary, a certification program for assistants will:

  • Establish standards for assistants on a national level.
  • Create guidelines for the scope of practice for audiology assistants and revalidation of the scope of practice for SLPAs.
  • Establish a systematic review and maintenance of high caliber standards for assistants.
  • Provide portability of credentials between various states and work settings.
  • Enhance ethical guidelines for assistants and for supervision of assistants. 
  • Institute steps for the reimbursement of services for assistants by clarifying the roles and scope of practice for audiology assistants and SLPAs. 

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