Roles and Responsibilities of Speech Language Pathologists in Schools

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 198,000 members and affiliates who areaudiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students.                                                                                                

According to the ASHA website, the following is a synopsis of the roles and responsibilities of a School Speech Language Pathologist.

ASHA"Driven by educational reform, legal mandates, and evolving professional practices, it is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) that the roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) listed below should provide the basis for speech-language services in schools to promote efficient and effective outcomes for students.

Critical Roles — SLPs have integral roles in education and are essential members of school faculties .

  • Working Across All Levels — SLPs provide appropriate speech-language services in Pre-K, elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools with no school level underserved. (Note: In some states infants and toddlers would be included in school services.)

  • Serving a Range of Disorders — As delineated in the ASHA Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology and federal regulations, SLPs work with students exhibiting the full range of communication disorders, including those involving language, articulation (speech sound disorders), fluency, voice/resonance, and swallowing. Myriad etiologies may be involved.

  • Ensuring Educational Relevance — The litmus test for roles assumed by SLPs with students with disabilities is whether the disorder has an impact on the education of students. Therefore, SLPs address personal, social/emotional, academic, and vocational needs that have an impact on attainment of educational goals.

  • Providing Unique Contributions to Curriculum — SLPs provide a distinct set of roles based on their focused expertise in language. They offer assistance in addressing the linguistic and metalinguistic foundations of curriculum learning for students with disabilities, as well as other learners who are at risk for school failure, or those who struggle in school settings.

  • Highlighting Language/Literacy — Current research supports the interrelationships across the language processes of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. SLPs contribute significantly to the literacy achievement of students with communication disorders, as well as other learners who are at risk for school failure, or those who struggle in school settings.

  • Providing Culturally Competent Services — With the ever-increasing diversity in the schools, SLPs make important contributions to ensure that all students receive quality, culturally competent services. SLPs have the expertise to distinguish a language disorder from “something else.” That “something else” might include cultural and linguistic differences, socioeconomic factors, lack of adequate prior instruction, and the process of acquiring the dialect of English used in the schools. This expertise leads to more accurate and appropriate identification of student needs. SLPs can also address the impact of language differences and second language acquisition on student learning and provide assistance to teachers in promoting educational growth.

Range of Responsibilities — SLPs help students meet the performance standards of a particular school district and state .

  • Prevention — SLPs are integrally involved in the efforts of schools to prevent academic failure in whatever form those initiatives may take; for example, in Response to Intervention (RTI). SLPs use evidence-based practice (EBP) in prevention approaches.

  • Assessment — SLPs conduct assessments in collaboration with others that help to identify students with communication disorders as well as to inform instruction and intervention, consistent with EBP.

  • Intervention — SLPs provide intervention that is appropriate to the age and learning needs of each individual student and is selected through an evidence-based decision-making process. Although service delivery models are typically more diverse in the school setting than in other settings, the therapy techniques are clinical in nature when dealing with students with disabilities.

  • Program Design — It is essential that SLPs configure schoolwide programs that employ a continuum of service delivery models in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities, and that they provide services to other students as appropriate.

  • Data Collection and Analysis — SLPs, like all educators, are accountable for student outcomes. Therefore, data-based decision making, including gathering and interpreting data with individual students, as well as overall program evaluation are essential responsibilities.

  • Compliance – SLPs are responsible for meeting federal and state mandates as well as local policies in performance of their duties. Activities may include Individualized Education Program (IEP) development, Medicaid billing, report writing, and treatment plan/therapy log development.

Collaboration — SLPs work in partnership with others to meet students' needs .

  • With Other School Professionals — SLPs provide services to support the instructional program at a school. Therefore, SLPs' unique contributions complement and augment those made by other professionals who also have unique perspectives and skills. Working collegially with general education teachers who are primarily responsible for curriculum and instruction is essential. SLPs also work closely with reading specialists, literacy coaches, special education teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, school psychologists, audiologists, guidance counselors, and social workers, in addition to others. Working with school and district administrators in designing and implementing programs is crucial.

  • With Universities — SLPs form important relationships with universities in which both the SLPs and the universities can benefit from shared knowledge and perspectives. Additionally, SLPs can serve as resources for university personnel and the university students whom they teach.

  • Within the Community — SLPs work with a variety of individuals and agencies (e.g., physicians, private therapy practitioners, social service agencies, private schools, and vocational rehabilitation) who may be involved in teaching or providing services to children and youth.

  • With Families — For students of all ages it is essential that SLPs engage families in planning, decision making, and program implementation.

  • With Students — Student involvement in the intervention process is essential to promoting personal responsibility and ownership of communication improvement goals. SLPs actively engage students in goal planning, intervention implementation, monitoring of progress, and self-advocacy appropriate to age and ability level.

Leadership — SLPs provide direction in defining their roles and responsibilities and in ensuring delivery of appropriate services to students .

  • Advocacy — To 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.

  • Supervision and Mentorship — SLPs play a vital role in inducting new professionals. They are involved with supervising student SLPs and clinical fellows, as well as in mentoring new SLPs. They also may supervise paraprofessionals.

  • Professional Development — SLPs are valuable resources in designing and conducting professional development. Given their expertise in communication and language, SLPs have much to offer other educators, including administrators, teachers, other educational specialists, and paraprofessionals in the collaborative effort to enhance the performance of students in schools.

  • Parent Training — SLPs are in a position to provide training to parents of students of all ages with regard to communication development and disorders. They may be especially helpful to families in creating a language- and literacy-rich environment

  • Research — Federal law requires the use of scientific, research-based practices. It is important for SLPs in the schools to participate in research to generate and support the use of evidence-based assessment and intervention practices."