Supervising for Success Working with an assistant can help ease—not add to—your responsibilities. School Matters
Free
School Matters  |   February 01, 2018
Supervising for Success
Author Notes
  • Kathy Wheat, PhD, CCC-SLP, is program director of the master’s in speech-language pathology program at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (currently in accreditation candidacy). She was founding director of the Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Program at Oklahoma City Community College for six years, and has more than 20 years’ experience in school-based practice and administration in Lawton, Oklahoma. She is past chair of the ASHA School Finance Committee; a member of the ASHA Government Relations and Public Policy Board; and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 11, Administration and Supervision, and 16, School-Based Issues. kwheat@usa.edu
    Kathy Wheat, PhD, CCC-SLP, is program director of the master’s in speech-language pathology program at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (currently in accreditation candidacy). She was founding director of the Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Program at Oklahoma City Community College for six years, and has more than 20 years’ experience in school-based practice and administration in Lawton, Oklahoma. She is past chair of the ASHA School Finance Committee; a member of the ASHA Government Relations and Public Policy Board; and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 11, Administration and Supervision, and 16, School-Based Issues. kwheat@usa.edu×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / School Matters
School Matters   |   February 01, 2018
Supervising for Success
The ASHA Leader, February 2018, Vol. 23, 36-38. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.23022018.36
The ASHA Leader, February 2018, Vol. 23, 36-38. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.23022018.36
Your caseload is already high, paperwork screams for priority over student treatment, you have a complex case that requires some research and planning, and end-of-the-year IEP meetings will be here before you know it.
And now someone in administration approaches you with an idea: How about employing a speech-language pathology assistant?
Thinking of the training and supervision required, your immediate response might be, “You want me to do what? I can’t do everything I need to do now.”
But actually this could be just what you need. Bringing a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA) on board can give you the opportunity to focus more on quality treatment and less on tasks that don’t require your specialized training and knowledge. Transitioning to this concept—known as working at the “top of the license” (see “From My Perspective,” in this issue)—is essential for creating fruitful partnerships among SLPs and SLPAs. But it likely does take some training, role adjustment, and a “mindset reset.”
Easing the burden
Special services directors, speech-language pathology coordinators and administrators understandably tend to see SLPAs as a solution to staffing needs for SLPs who are overburdened with caseload and other demands. When they approach SLPs about working with SLPAs, they may be baffled if SLPs’ responses are less than positive, especially given the routine use of assistants in physical therapy and occupational therapy practice.
While baffling to administration at times, this response from SLPs is authentic and understandable, because you certainly cannot do it all. And now here’s an additional task in your day. The great news, however, is with a mindset reset and training, you can work successfully with assistants and reduce your workload, as many school-based SLPs have done.
A great way to begin your reset is to remember to “keep the main thing the main thing.” Focus on student needs and treatment and determine how to provide quality services to meet their needs. With this mindset, your focus is centered on the student, not on the support personnel, and you can begin to partner with an SLPA to plan for success.
Top of the license
Successful work with SLPAs involves learning to work at the top of your speech-language pathology license, as well as understanding regulations regarding SLPAs in your state:
  • What are the SLPA licensing and certification rules for your state? What are the specific roles and responsibilities for SLPAs, based on their education and professional training, in your state? (See the list of resources below for links to state information.)

  • Which students on your caseload can SLPAs—with academic and clinical training—effectively serve, and which students with increased complex needs demand your level of education and professional training?

To illustrate this concept, consider how much time you devote to students with mild articulation delays who need drill-and-practice treatment, or to students who need language stimulation treatment. SLPAs with academic and clinical training in these types of disorders can provide the needed treatment. Meanwhile, you have time to design a visual schedule system or treatments for students with autism spectrum disorder or other complex needs.

Focus on student needs and treatment … with this mindset, your focus is centered on the student, not on the support personnel, and you can begin to partner with an SLPA to plan for success.

Training
Equally important for successful SLP-SLPA teams is supervision training for SLPs. Traditionally, few graduate programs offer training on supervision of assistants, and often SLPs feel unprepared and unqualified to supervise. (For more information on efforts to provide more formalized supervision training in communication sciences and disorders, see “Nobody Told Me There’s No Supervision Manual!” from the October 2017 issue of The ASHA Leader.) Some states, however, require a certain number of hours of training for anyone supervising support personnel.
If you are interested in or working with SLPAs, supervision training—whether required or not—is a must. Find a speech-language pathology training program that offers supervision training or a speech-language pathology assistant training program. You will learn models of supervision appropriate for support personnel and how SLPA supervision differs from supervising other categories of personnel—clinical fellows, for example. Supervision of clinical fellows culminates in independence; supervision for SLPAs focuses on the SLPA’s specific roles and responsibilities while working under the license or certification of the SLP. (See the box below for supervision resources.)
Supervision training also includes learning about differences between managing, directing and supervising. SLPs and SLPAs working for the same school system are employees and responsible to designated administrators or leaders who manage them. In this arrangement, the SLP is responsible for the SLPA’s professional supervision, but not their administrative supervision, which deals with salary, work hours, leave, performance evaluation and other aspects of the job.
Network
In getting familiar and comfortable with supervising an SLPA, you don’t need to re-create the wheel: Network with other SLPs and SLPAs who are successfully partnering to provide quality services. Many of these teams are happy to share what they have learned along the way. You could also visit some SLPA social media pages and get some tips and direction.
Here’s the bottom line: If you work with an SLPA, what’s in it for you as an SLP? You could receive assistance with students and caseload, more time to work on complex cases, and an academically and clinically trained partner to plan and work with to help students.
Where Do I Start?

ASHA offers several online resources related to working with and supervising speech-language pathology support personnel.

0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
February 2018
Volume 23, Issue 2