Why Make Time for Advocacy? When you think about it, there are so many issues of great importance to school-based speech-language pathologists. More and more states are passing legislation on how professional staff members in schools will be evaluated and how that evaluation will affect job retention and salary. I’ve spoken with SLPs who feel ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   April 01, 2012
Why Make Time for Advocacy?
Author Notes
  • Deborah Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP, director of school services, can be reached at ddixon@asha.org
    Deborah Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP, director of school services, can be reached at ddixon@asha.org×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   April 01, 2012
Why Make Time for Advocacy?
The ASHA Leader, April 2012, Vol. 17, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.17042012.28
The ASHA Leader, April 2012, Vol. 17, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.17042012.28
When you think about it, there are so many issues of great importance to school-based speech-language pathologists. More and more states are passing legislation on how professional staff members in schools will be evaluated and how that evaluation will affect job retention and salary.
I’ve spoken with SLPs who feel pressured to enroll or dismiss students without the proper data to support the placement change. Members continue to call in with questions for our technical assistance team about response to intervention and the use of the Common Core State Standards. Paperwork and workload/caseload continue to be burdensome issues.
But when you think about all these pressures it becomes apparent that they all have one thing in common—the need for self-advocacy. This concept is different from advocating for your students because you are verbalizing what your needs are so you can get your job done more effectively. Unfortunately, many view advocacy as unpleasant, requiring herculean efforts and great power. The common response is, “When and how can I advocate when there is already so much on my plate?” But think about it—self-advocacy can create opportunities to reduce your workload and make your professional responsibilities more manageable, and may even result in positive district or statewide changes.
ASHA’s resource on the roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists in schools says that SLPs must:
“assume productive roles, SLPs must advocate for appropriate programs and services for children and adolescents, including reasonable workloads, professional development opportunities, and other program supports. Because some of the roles SLPs assume may be new or evolving and may not be clearly understood by others, SLPs have a responsibility to articulate their roles and responsibilities to teachers, other school professionals, administrators, support personnel, families, and the community. They also work to influence the development and interpretation of laws, regulations, and policies to promote best practice.”
Although that description may sound overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Advocacy can be something as simple as gathering together a group of colleagues to pursue one change that would improve services to students. Members have used advocacy to reduce caseloads and secure assignments based on workload; establish consistent, evidenced-based district-wide standards for enrolling and dismissing students; and develop procedures and resources for use in response-to-intervention efforts.
There are many examples of school-based members experiencing great success through self-advocacy. In 2010, as a part of ASHA’s Schools Conference, a group of members participated in training to implement some form of workload. To date, 46% of those members have been successful in implementing a variety of workload strategies in their districts. These strategies allow them to use their time more effectively, improve collaboration with teachers and parents, and identify new strategies and processes to improve service delivery to students.
Many of the participants in this year’s Leadership Development Program have leadership goals that focus on issues such as acquiring new technology, pursuing salary and other retention strategies, establishing workload strategies, establishing guidelines for RTI, and designing collaboration models. All of these can have very positive outcomes—but require strong advocacy efforts.
You don’t need to start a self-advocacy initiative from scratch. ASHA has many resources designed to assist with advocacy at the local, state, or national level, including “How to Work for Change in the School Setting” and “Grassroots Advocacy.” ASHA will soon publish “Performance Assessment of Contributions and Effectiveness of SLPs,” a resource designed to assist SLPs with the issue of value-added assessment.
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April 2012
Volume 17, Issue 4