Scope of Practice
Ad Hoc Committee on the Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology
About this Document: This scope of practice document is an official policy of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defining the breadth of practice within the profession of speech-language pathology. This document was developed by the ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on the Scope of Practice in Speech- Language Pathology. Committee members were Mark DeRuiter (chair), Michael Campbell, Craig Coleman, Charlette Green, Diane Kendall, Judith Montgomery, Bernard Rousseau, Nancy Swigert, Sandra Gillam (board liaison), and Lemmietta McNeilly (ex officio). This document was approved by the ASHA Board of Directors on February 4, 2016 (BOD 01-2016). The BOD approved a revision in the prevention of hearing section of the document on May 9, 2016 (Motion 07-2016).
Table of Contents
The Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) includes the following: a statement of purpose, definitions of speech-language pathologist and speech-language pathology, a framework for speech-language pathology practice, a description of the domains of speech-language pathology service delivery, delineation of speech-language pathology service delivery areas, domains of professional practice, references, and resources.
The speech-language pathologist (SLP) is defined as the professional who engages in professional practice in the areas of communication and swallowing across the life span. Communication and swallowing are broad terms encompassing many facets of function. Communication includes speech production and fluency, language, cognition, voice, resonance, and hearing. Swallowing includes all aspects of swallowing, including related feeding behaviors. Throughout this document, the terms communication and swallowing are used to reflect all areas. This document is a guide for SLPs across all clinical and educational settings to promote best practice. The term individuals is used throughout the document to refer to students, clients, and patients who are served by the SLP.
As part of the review process for updating the Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology, the committee revised the previous scope of practice document to reflect recent advances in knowledge and research in the discipline. One of the biggest changes to the document includes the delineation of practice areas in the context of eight domains of speech-language pathology service delivery: collaboration; counseling; prevention and wellness; screening; assessment; treatment; modalities, technology, and instrumentation; and population and systems. In addition, five domains of professional practice are delineated: advocacy and outreach, supervision, education, research and administration/leadership.
Service delivery areas include all aspects of communication and swallowing and related areas that impact communication and swallowing: speech production, fluency, language, cognition, voice, resonance, feeding, swallowing, and hearing. The practice of speech-language pathology continually evolves. SLPs play critical roles in health literacy; screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder; and use of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF; World Health Organization [WHO], 2014) to develop functional goals and collaborative practice. As technology and science advance, the areas of assessment and intervention related to communication and swallowing disorders grow accordingly. Clinicians should stay current with advances in speech-language pathology practice by regularly reviewing the research literature, consulting the Practice Management section of the ASHA website, including the Practice Portal, and regularly participating in continuing education to supplement advances in the profession and information in the scope of practice.
The purpose of the Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology is to
The scope of practice outlines the breadth of professional services offered within the profession of speech-language pathology. Levels of education, experience, skill, and proficiency in each practice area identified within this scope will vary among providers. An SLP typically does not practice in all areas of clinical service delivery across the life cycle. As the ASHA Code of Ethics specifies, professionals may practice only in areas in which they are competent, based on their education, training, and experience.
This scope of practice document describes evolving areas of practice. These include interdisciplinary work in both health care and educational settings, collaborative service delivery wherever appropriate, and telehealth/telepractice that are effective for the general public.
Speech-language pathology is a dynamic profession, and the overlapping of scopes of practice is a reality in rapidly changing health care, education, and other environments. Hence, SLPs in various settings work collaboratively with other school or health care professionals to make sound decisions for the benefit of individuals with communication and swallowing disorders. This interprofessional collaborative practice is defined as "members or students of two or more professions associated with health or social care, engaged in learning with, from and about each other" (Craddock, O'Halloran, Borthwick, & McPherson, 2006, p. 237). Similarly, "interprofessional education provides an ability to share skills and knowledge between professions and allows for a better understanding, shared values, and respect for the roles of other healthcare professionals" (Bridges et al., 2011, para. 5).
This scope of practice does not supersede existing state licensure laws or affect the interpretation or implementation of such laws. However, it may serve as a model for the development or modification of licensure laws. Finally, in addition to this scope of practice document, other ASHA professional resources outline practice areas and address issues related to public protection (e.g., A guide to disability rights law and the Practice Portal). The highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct are held paramount in this profession.
Speech-language pathologists , as defined by ASHA, are professionals who hold the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), which requires a master's, doctoral, or other recognized postbaccalaureate degree. ASHA-certified SLPs complete a supervised postgraduate professional experience and pass a national examination as described in the ASHA certification standards, (2014). Demonstration of continued professional development is mandated for the maintenance of the CCC-SLP. SLPs hold other required credentials where applicable (e.g., state licensure, teaching certification, specialty certification).
Each practitioner evaluates his or her own experiences with preservice education, practice, mentorship and supervision, and continuing professional development. As a whole, these experiences define the scope of competence for each individual. The SLP should engage in only those aspects of the profession that are within her or his professional competence.
SLPs are autonomous professionals who are the primary care providers of speech-language pathology services. Speech-language pathology services are not prescribed or supervised by another professional. Additional requirements may dictate that speech-language pathology services are prescribed and required to meet specific eligibility criteria in certain work settings, or as required by certain payers. SLPs use professional judgment to determine if additional requirements are indicated. Individuals with communication and/or swallowing disorders benefit from services that include collaboration by SLPs with other professionals.
The profession of speech-language pathology contains a broad area of speech-language pathology practice that includes both speech-language pathology service delivery and professional practice domains. These domains are defined in subsequent sections of this document and are represented schematically in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Schematic representation of speech-language pathology practice, including both service delivery and professional domains.
The overall objective of speech-language pathology services is to optimize individuals' abilities to communicate and to swallow, thereby improving quality of life. As the population of the United States continues to become increasingly diverse, SLPs are committed to the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services and to the consideration of diversity in scientific investigations of human communication and swallowing.
An important characteristic of the practice of speech-language pathology is that, to the extent possible, decisions are based on best available evidence. ASHA defines evidence-based practice in speech-language pathology as an approach in which current, high-quality research evidence is integrated with practitioner expertise, along with the client's values and preferences (ASHA, 2005). A high-quality basic and applied research base in communication sciences and disorders and related disciplines is essential to providing evidence-based practice and high-quality services. Increased national and international interchange of professional knowledge, information, and education in communication sciences and disorders is a means to strengthen research collaboration and improve services. ASHA has provided a resource for evidence-based research via the Practice Portal.
The scope of practice in speech-language pathology comprises five domains of professional practice and eight domains of service delivery.
Professional practice domains:
Service delivery domains
SLPs provide services to individuals with a wide variety of speech, language, and swallowing differences and disorders within the above-mentioned domains that range in function from completely intact to completely compromised. The diagnostic categories in the speech-language pathology scope of practice are consistent with relevant diagnostic categories under the WHO's (2014) ICF, the American Psychiatric Association's (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the categories of disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (see also U.S. Department of Education, 2004), and those defined by two semiautonomous bodies of ASHA: the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology and the Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
The domains of speech-language pathology service delivery complement the ICF, the WHO's multipurpose health classification system (WHO, 2014). The classification system provides a standard language and framework for the description of functioning and health. The ICF framework is useful in describing the breadth of the role of the SLP in the prevention, assessment, and habilitation/rehabilitation of communication and swallowing disorders and the enhancement and scientific investigation of those functions. The framework consists of two components: health conditions and contextual factors.
Body Functions and Structures: These involve the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Relevant examples in speech-language pathology include craniofacial anomaly, vocal fold paralysis, cerebral palsy, stuttering, and language impairment.
Activity and Participation: Activity refers to the execution of a task or action. Participation is the involvement in a life situation. Relevant examples in speech-language pathology include difficulties with swallowing safely for independent feeding, participating actively in class, understanding a medical prescription, and accessing the general education curriculum.
Environmental Factors: These make up the physical, social, and attitudinal environments in which people live and conduct their lives. Relevant examples in speech-language pathology include the role of the communication partner in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), the influence of classroom acoustics on communication, and the impact of institutional dining environments on individuals' ability to safely maintain nutrition and hydration.
Personal Factors: These are the internal influences on an individual's functioning and disability and are not part of the health condition. Personal factors may include, but are not limited to, age, gender, ethnicity, educational level, social background, and profession. Relevant examples in speech-language pathology might include an individual's background or culture, if one or both influence his or her reaction to communication or swallowing.
The framework in speech-language pathology encompasses these health conditions and contextual factors across individuals and populations. Figure 2 illustrates the interaction of the various components of the ICF. The health condition component is expressed on a continuum of functioning. On one end of the continuum is intact functioning; at the opposite end of the continuum is completely compromised function. The contextual factors interact with each other and with the health conditions and may serve as facilitators or barriers to functioning. SLPs influence contextual factors through education and advocacy efforts at local, state, and national levels.
Figure 2. Interaction of the various components of the ICF model. This model applies to individuals or groups.
The eight domains of speech-language pathology service delivery are collaboration; counseling; prevention and wellness; screening; assessment; treatment; modalities, technology, and instrumentation; and population and systems.
SLPs share responsibility with other professionals for creating a collaborative culture. Collaboration requires joint communication and shared decision making among all members of the team, including the individual and family, to accomplish improved service delivery and functional outcomes for the individuals served. When discussing specific roles of team members, professionals are ethically and legally obligated to determine whether they have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform such services. Collaboration occurs across all speech-language pathology practice domains.
As our global society is becoming more connected, integrated, and interdependent, SLPs have access to a variety of resources, information technology, diverse perspectives and influences (see, e.g., Lipinsky, Lombardo, Dominy, & Feeney, 1997). Increased national and international interchange of professional knowledge, information, and education in communication sciences and disorders is a means to strengthen research collaboration and improve services. SLPs
SLPs counsel by providing education, guidance, and support. Individuals, their families and their caregivers are counseled regarding acceptance, adaptation, and decision making about communication, feeding and swallowing, and related disorders. The role of the SLP in the counseling process includes interactions related to emotional reactions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that result from living with the communication disorder, feeding and swallowing disorder, or related disorders.
SLPs engage in the following activities in counseling persons with communication and feeding and swallowing disorders and their families:
SLPs are involved in prevention and wellness activities that are geared toward reducing the incidence of a new disorder or disease, identifying disorders at an early stage, and decreasing the severity or impact of a disability associated with an existing disorder or disease. Involvement is directed toward individuals who are vulnerable or at risk for limited participation in communication, hearing, feeding and swallowing, and related abilities. Activities are directed toward enhancing or improving general well-being and quality of life. Education efforts focus on identifying and increasing awareness of risk behaviors that lead to communication disorders and feeding and swallowing problems. SLPs promote programs to increase public awareness, which are aimed at positively changing behaviors or attitudes.
Effective prevention programs are often community based and enable the SLP to help reduce the incidence of spoken and written communication and swallowing disorders as a public health and public education concern.
Examples of prevention and wellness programs include, but are not limited to, the following:
SLPs are experts at screening individuals for possible communication, hearing, and/or feeding and swallowing disorders. SLPs have the knowledge of-and skills to treat-these disorders; they can design and implement effective screening programs and make appropriate referrals. These screenings facilitate referral for appropriate follow-up in a timely and cost-effective manner. SLPs
Speech-language pathologists have expertise in the differential diagnosis of disorders of communication and swallowing. Communication, speech, language, and swallowing disorders can occur developmentally, as part of a medical condition, or in isolation, without an apparent underlying medical condition. Competent SLPs can diagnose communication and swallowing disorders but do not differentially diagnose medical conditions. The assessment process utilizes the ICF framework, which includes evaluation of body function, structure, activity and participation, within the context of environmental and personal factors. The assessment process can include, but is not limited to, culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral observation and standardized and/or criterion-referenced tools; use of instrumentation; review of records, case history, and prior test results; and interview of the individual and/or family to guide decision making. The assessment process can be carried out in collaboration with other professionals. SLPs
Speech-language services are designed to optimize individuals' ability to communicate and swallow, thereby improving quality of life. SLPs develop and implement treatment to address the presenting symptoms or concerns of a communication or swallowing problem or related functional issue. Treatment establishes a new skill or ability or remediates or restores an impaired skill or ability. The ultimate goal of therapy is to improve an individual's functional outcomes. To this end, SLPs
SLPs use advanced instrumentation and technologies in the evaluation, management, and care of individuals with communication, feeding and swallowing, and related disorders. SLPs are also involved in the research and development of emerging technologies and apply their knowledge in the use of advanced instrumentation and technologies to enhance the quality of the services provided. Some examples of services that SLPs offer in this domain include, but are not limited to, the use of
In addition to direct care responsibilities, SLPs have a role in (a) managing populations to improve overall health and education, (b) improving the experience of the individuals served, and, in some circumstances, (c) reducing the cost of care. SLPs also have a role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. SLPs serve in roles designed to meet the demands and expectations of a changing work environment. SLPs
This list of practice areas and the bulleted examples are not comprehensive. Current areas of practice, such as literacy, have continued to evolve, whereas other new areas of practice are emerging. Please refer to the ASHA Practice Portal for a more extensive list of practice areas.
Language- Spoken and written language (listening, processing, speaking, reading, writing, pragmatics)
Feeding and Swallowing
Potential etiologies of communication and swallowing disorders include
This list of etiologies is not comprehensive.
Elective services include
This list of elective services is not comprehensive.
This section delineates the domains of professional practice-that is, a set of skills and knowledge that goes beyond clinical practice. The domains of professional practice include advocacy and outreach, supervision, education, research, and administration and leadership.
SLPs advocate for the discipline and for individuals through a variety of mechanisms, including community awareness, prevention activities, health literacy, academic literacy, education, political action, and training programs. Advocacy promotes and facilitates access to communication, including the reduction of societal, cultural, and linguistic barriers. SLPs perform a variety of activities, including the following:
Supervision is a distinct area of practice; is the responsibility of SLPs; and crosses clinical, administrative, and technical spheres. SLPs are responsible for supervising Clinical Fellows, graduate externs, trainees, speech-language pathology assistants, and other personnel (e.g., clerical, technical, and other administrative support staff). SLPs may also supervise colleagues and peers. SLPs acknowledge that supervision is integral in the delivery of communication and swallowing services and advances the discipline. Supervision involves education, mentorship, encouragement, counseling, and support across all supervisory roles. SLPs
SLPs serve as educators, teaching students in academic institutions and teaching professionals through continuing education in professional development formats. This more formal teaching is in addition to the education that SLPs provide to individuals, families, caregivers, decision makers, and policy makers, which is described in other domains. SLPs
SLPs conduct and participate in basic and applied/translational research related to cognition, verbal and nonverbal communication, pragmatics, literacy (reading, writing and spelling), and feeding and swallowing. This research may be undertaken as a facility-specific effort or may be coordinated across multiple settings. SLPs engage in activities to ensure compliance with Institutional Review Boards and international laws pertaining to research. SLPs also collaborate with other researchers and may pursue research funding through grants.
SLPs administer programs in education, higher education, schools, health care, private practice, and other settings. In this capacity, they are responsible for making administrative decisions related to fiscal and personnel management; leadership; program design; program growth and innovation; professional development; compliance with laws and regulations; and cooperation with outside agencies in education and healthcare. Their administrative roles are not limited to speech-language pathology, as they may administer programs across departments and at different levels within an institution. In addition, SLPs promote effective and manageable workloads in school settings, provide appropriate services under IDEIA (2004), and engage in program design and development.
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Index terms: scope of practice
Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2016). Scope of practice in speech-language pathology [Scope of Practice]. Available from www.asha.org/policy/.
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