The job of a speech-language pathologist continues to expand. And as demand for our expertise increases, so does our workload. Awareness about our profession seems not to grow as much, however. New SLPs, for example, might quickly learn about others’ sometimes-limited understanding about our scope of practice.
It can be frustrating when others don’t understand what an SLP does, but we can teach them by advocating for ourselves. As a school-based SLP, I educate many of my co-workers about the extent of my skills and expertise.
Let’s learn to represent our brand, fellow SLPs. I hope these strategies work as well for you—whatever your setting—as they did for me:
Create and deliver a brief presentation to co-workers about speech-language pathology:
- Include audiologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists to reiterate our ties to other professions.
- Review your education, any specialized areas of focus and licensing requirements.
- Let them know about ASHA and provide it as a resource.
- Explain our scope of practice as it relates to your work setting.
Educate client/student families and friends:
- Provide parents with a list of common acronyms and terms used during IEP meetings.
- Provide a “Welcome to Speech” packet with treatment-room procedures, an overview of our scope of practice, and a letter introducing yourself.
- Provide packets and resources of seasonal and daily activities for families to do at home.
- Use our correct title! Don’t be afraid to gently correct co-workers and always use “speech-language pathologist” in official reports and documents.
Present yourself in a consistent manner at every IEP, evaluation and team meeting:
- My team is probably sick of the same spiel I give at every parent meeting. I always begin by introducing myself as a speech-language pathologist. I then explain my role to help students improve communication skills. This also gives the IEP team a better idea of my expertise and how it applies to each student.
- If I don’t know the answer to an issue, I tell the person I need to do some research first.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up at meetings if you think a student might benefit from your services.
- We are the communication sciences and disorders experts! Feel confident in your ability to offer advice, share research or defend your point of view.
You have something to bring to the table. Remind others—and yourself—every day you go to work. You joined this profession for a reason. You give a voice to those who need help gaining one.
What else can we do to represent our profession? Let us begin to give speech-language pathology an even louder voice in our workplace.
Please share your ideas to raise awareness about SLPs’ expertise in the comment section below.
Erin Elizabeth Milewski, MS, CCC-SLP, works with elementary school students in the East Pennsboro Area school district outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. firstname.lastname@example.org