I’ve been struggling to write my last post about the 2011 ASHA Convention. What could I possibly have to say that would sum up my experience? Should I be funny? Light hearted? Should I try to send a message? Reach out?
ALL OF THE ABOVE?
That’s the one!
I discovered something about myself while I was at the ASHA Convention. I really like the administrative side of things. It’s been sneaking up on me – an interest in policies, positions, procedures, politics (whew – what an alliteration!) But there it is. Can’t be denied. I just really enjoy knowing what is going on, how it affects me, how it affects my clients – and you’d think this would be the case with everyone.
However, I discovered something else at ASHA as well – a sort of apathetic, passive, bystander effect among CSD professionals when it comes to legislative and regulatory issues. Obviously this isn’t necessarily the rule, and I truly hope it is the exception. But there seems to be this sense that issues which go outside of our clients and our place of business, go beyond us overall.
I attended a lecture entitled Advocacy 101: Add Your Voice, which was presented by ASHA’s Government Relations and Public Policy Board (Regina Grimmett and Shelley Victor.) The description was as follows:
- This session is proposed by the Governmental Relations Public Policy Board (GRPP) to promote advocacy as related to legislative, regulatory, and other public policy activities affecting the professions. Presenters will explain strategies for self-advocacy, illustrate data use for advocating issues, and demonstrate strategies for meeting legislators/government officials.
After the lecture, learners would be able to:
- describe their role in professional grassroots advocacy at the local, state, and/or national levels.
- define advocacy–its goals, types, and benefits of grassroots advocacy efforts
- advocate for specific federal and/or state issues that affect the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology.
To me, this sounds like pretty important stuff. At the undergraduate and graduate level we are taught that advocacy is within our scope and is our responsibility. Usually we think of that in terms of advocacy for our clients, but this was quite obviously in regards to US. We like our jobs, yes? We like funding and support, yes?
There were probably 15 people present at this lecture. 10,000+ attendees at the ASHA Convention. Fifteen people who wanted to learn more about how to protect our jobs, advocate for ourselves, and interact with people who can make or break us.
Now, I get it. We go to ASHA to learn how to best support our clients (oh, and to see our best CSD buddies). Holding the client paramount – this is our duty. But how can we hold our clients paramount if we don’t have the IDEA/ESEA/Medicare/Medicaid funding to do it? How can we hold our clients paramount when our professions are being threatened by a poor economy and an administration that doesn’t acknowledge our existence? How can we hold our clients paramount when our credentials aren’t universally recognized as a benchmark for licensing and other professional standards? This presentation was two hours. Two hours out of your three day ASHA schedule could have been dedicated to learning how to stand up for yourself and your colleagues.
We have to help ourselves, to help our clients (kind of that whole “Put your oxygen mask on first” thing.) And I would guess that 15 people can’t do it all. We cannot continue to assume that someone else will get to it. We cannot continue to run our professional lives with a “want something done – give it to a busy person” philosophy. We are ALL busy but, we are ALL accountable.
Want to know more about advocacy, for you and your clients? Contact ASHA-PAC. Contact your state association. Go to the ASHA website. Contact your SEAL. Contact your State Liaison. Become a Grassroots Captain. Start early by encouraging students, interns, CFs, and newbies to get involved! There are a million resources and you can get to them while you sit in your office chair.
Listen, I’m not saying run for president or Occupy ASHA – just don’t stand by. Do what you can, or at the least support people who are trying. While you’re thinking that someone else may do it, someone else may be thinking that YOU will do it.
I loved every second of the ASHA Convention, and I hope when I attend in the future that I see more presentations about government relations – and I hope to see more of you there.
(Samantha is one of the official ASHA Convention bloggers! Stay tuned for more insights from her and the other bloggers before, during and after convention.)
Samantha Weatherford, B.A., is a second-year, speech-language pathology graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. She writes about speech-path and grad school on her blog, so to Speak. Does she think it is a coincidence that the first ever ASHA Convention was in St. Louis, MO, her beautiful hometown, and she chose to be an SLP? NOPE. FATE.