Hello! My name is Sandra Hernandez., but on official documents I sign my name as Sandra Hernandez, B.S., SLPA. Now, you may be thinking: “I thought it was just SLP?” Please allow me to explain what the “A” stands for.
My official job title is “Speech Language Pathology Assistant”. “What does that mean?” You may be wondering. Well, the American Hearing and Speech Association (ASHA) describes SLPAs as “ support personnel who, following academic coursework, fieldwork, and on-the-job training, perform tasks prescribed, directed, and supervised by ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists. ” In short, we provide therapy services under the supervision and guidance of an ASHA certified Speech Language Pathologist. We can be compared to Board Certified Assistant Behavioral Analysts (BCaBAs), Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs), and Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs). While you may not hear about assistant therapists often, they are in my very biased opinion, an important asset to fully certified therapists.
In most settings, utilizing assistants provides supervisors and clinicians with time to evaluate clients, to develop treatment plans, to re-evaluate and record progress over time, and to fulfill any administrative tasks. Furthermore, ASHA reports the following advantages to utilizing SLPAs: “The ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist may extend services (i.e., increase the frequency and intensity of services to patients or clients on his/her caseload), focus more on professional-level tasks, increase client access to the program, and achieve more efficient/effective use of time and resources” All in all, through the collaboration of SLPs and SLPAs, we are able to provide more services to the patients that need them.
SLPAs are recognized as qualified professionals in the state of Missouri and are licensed by the Missouri Board of Healing Arts after completing a Bachelor degree in Speech Language Pathology. LIke most healing art programs, hours of observation and clinical practice are also required for licensure as well. Similarly to certified SLPs, SLPAs are encouraged to seek out and benefit from continuing education courses. While SLPAs receive the same educational foundation in the Science of Communication Disorders that fully certified SLPs do, they do not receive training in diagnostics and assessment. It is important to note that every decision throughout the whole process is made by the supervising clinician. To elaborate, the supervising clinician decides whether therapy is needed and the frequency of therapy to be provided, as well as when the patient is ready for discharge. In addition, the supervising clinician also decides what type of therapy is needed and writes a treatment plan tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Therefore, the scope of an SLPA practice is limited to only providing treatment. While we are able to assist in screenings, we cannot and do not administer evaluations or decide treatment methods. My responsibilities as an assistant include providing treatment for the clients placed on my caseload, recording day to day data, and reporting feedback from the sessions to parents/caregivers as well as to my supervisor.
Most importantly, however, our job is to help your child communicate with you. Our job is to make sure that your child has a voice. Our job is to provide an environment, understand your child’s uniqueness, and give them an opportunity for equal learning. Together, SLPs and SLPAs work to make sure that every child that comes through our doors has that opportunity. We work very closely and hard every day so that we can help your child reach his or her full potential. Whether the “A” is on there or not, our job is the same. Hopefully learning about the qualifications, responsibilities, and the values of speech language pathology assistants relieves any confusion or questions about the title difference.
Thanks for reading my post!
Sandra Hernandez, B.S., SLPA