Featured Article: One New Year’s Resolution to Keep

One New Year’s resolution to keep – learn more about being an effective speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA) supervisor

by Plural author Jennifer Ostergren

If you are like me, as 2014 swings into full gear, you look to your newly inked New Year’s resolutions. One resolution on my list this year is to expand my knowledge and skills as an educator and supervisor of speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs). Those of you with similar aspirations know that serving as an SLPA supervisor can be highly rewarding, but also challenging, especially given a lack of resources and tools specific to SLPAs. This year, however, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) continues to expand its efforts in this area, with new programs, policies, and resources specific to SLPAs and their supervisors. In particular, ASHA’s new Practice Portal on the topic of SLPAs, located at http://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Professional-Issues/Speech-Language-Pathology-Assistants/, is an excellent source of current information and resources on this topic. The sections that follow also highlight several key resources from ASHA that may be of help as well.

2013 SLPA Scope of Practice

In 2013, ASHA introduced a new scope of practice document entitled, Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Scope of Practice (ASHA, 2013). This new document consolidated older ASHA documents into one policy. Many key recommendations remain, including a clear emphasis on the role of an SLPA as an individual who supports/assists (but must not supplant) the services of the speech-language pathologist (SLP). Rather, ASHA states that SLPAs must seek employment only in settings where adequate and systematic supervision is available and perform only those tasks specifically prescribed by a qualified SLP and within the scope of duties of an SLPA. ASHA’s new document reiterates this and states that the supervising SLP “retains full legal and ethical responsibility for the students, patients, and clients he or she serves but may delegate specific tasks to the SLPA.” (ASHA, 2013, Responsibilities within the Scope for SLPAs)

A notable addition to this new document is the discussion of ASHA’s Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2010) as it relates to the supervision of SLPAs. This is particularly helpful for supervisors as it highlights “guidance” in interpreting applicable ethical principles and rules relative to SLPA supervision. From a legal perspective, this new document also recommends that SLPAs, who engage in service provision, obtain liability insurance to protect against malpractice.

ASHA’s new document again highlights the critical importance of careful and documented supervision of SLPAs and offers supervisors additional guidelines on the nature of supervision, for both new and experienced SLPAs. ASHA’s new document also recommends that individuals who supervise SLPAs: 1) hold a certificate of clinical competence; 2) have practiced for at least 2 years after certification; and 3) complete academic coursework (or at least 10 hours of continuing education) in the area of supervision, prior to/or concurrent with their first SLPA supervision experience (ASHA, 2013, Qualifications of a Supervising SLP).

ASHA’s new document again outlines in detail those activities/duties inside and outside the scope of responsibilities of an SLPA. A notable addition to this new document pertains to the provision of services for culturally and linguistically diverse individuals, for which this new document states (provided adequate training and supervision) SLPAs can:

  • Assist the SLP with bilingual translation during screening and assessment activities exclusive of interpretation.
  • Serve as interpreter for patients/clients/students and families who do not speak English.
  • Provide services under SLP supervision in another language for individuals who do not speak English and English-language learners.

In the area of service provision, this new document also reiterates the importance in SLPAs complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations. Further, ASHA’s new document outlines several advocacy and prevention activities within the scope of an SLPA, including, among others, presenting primary prevention information to individuals and groups known to be at risk for communication disorders, promoting early identification and early intervention activities, and providing information to emergency response agencies for individuals who have communication and/or swallowing disorders (ASHA, 2013, Prevention and Advocacy).

Overall, this new ASHA document is much more comprehensive and is a key resource in navigating the complex task of supervising SLPAs. Supervisors interested in viewing this document can access it directly at: http://www.asha.org/policy/SP2013-00337/.

Associate Program

In 2011, ASHA initiated a new program offering affiliation status to support personnel (Robinson, 2010). Individuals with this new status are referred to as ASHA associates. This program is not a certification program in that ASHA does not provide direct oversight or regulation of certification for ASHA associates; however, ASHA associates can be listed on ASHA’s online member directory as an associate. ASHA associates also have access to many ASHA member benefits, including an e-newsletter and e-group specifically for support personnel, access to The ASHA Leader and scholarly journals, reduced convention registration fees, continuing professional development opportunities, and many other benefits (ASHA, 2011, para. 5). In exchange, ASHA associates must agree to (ASHA, 2011):

  • Adhere to all applicable policies pertaining to the use and supervision of support personnel, including performing only those tasks assigned by a supervising speech-language pathologist or audiologist.
  • Work only under the supervision of an ASHA-certified SLP or audiologist.
  • Adhere to all applicable state (province) laws and rules regulating the professions listed above.
  • Pay annual fees to maintain their affiliation.

ASHA maintains a website specifically for ASHA associates, located at http://www.asha.org/associates/. Supervisors interested in learning more about this program can find additional details on this site. ASHA members can search for an ASHA associate via ASHA’s Member Center, located at: http://www.asha.org/members/.

State-by-State Resource

State-level regulations regarding the training, use, and supervision of support personnel continue to vary greatly from state to state. ASHA’s State Advocacy Team maintains a website that can be helpful to supervisors in identifying applicable details about their state’s policies on support personnel, located at http://www.asha.org/advocacy/state/. After selecting their state name, supervisors can select “support personnel” to be directed to a page summarizing that state’s support personnel regulations and, as applicable, direct links to state websites and related documents.

Special Interest Group (SIG) 11

ASHA’s SIG 11 (Supervision and Administration) is also an excellent source for information on supervision in general, including continuing education opportunities in the area of supervision and SIG 11’s online publication, Perspectives on Supervision and Administration. SIG 11’s website is located at: http://www.asha.org/SIG/11/


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2004). Knowledge and skills needed by speech-language pathologists and audiologists to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services [Knowledge and Skills]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2010). Code of ethics [Ethics]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (2011, July 5). Welcome! ASHA initiates new affiliation category for assistants. The ASHA Leader. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2011/110705/Welcome–ASHA-Initiates-New-Affiliation-Category-for-Assistants/

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2013). Speech-language pathology assistant scope of practice [Scope of Practice]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.

Robinson, T. L., Jr. (2010). Associates in ASHA: A new initiative. The ASHA Leader. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2010/100803/From-President-100803.htm

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