A Call to Today’s SLP. Where Do You See Yourself.

I was honored to be a presenter at a professional development seminar for speech-language pathologists. The topic:  The SLP and Applied Behavior Analysis.  As I prepared and conferred with one of my mentors, the question was asked “Where does the SLP see him or herself?”  A very relevant question in light of the marketing and packaging of many therapies that parents are now asking by name at IEP meetings and private practices.  As a practitioner and as an SLP I definitely understand why many parents are asking these questions, especially when looking at Applied Behavior Analysis.  After all, as a profession they have better data collection methods and have the ability to approach therapy scientifically by breaking down the task to build skill sets.

The challenge here is speech-language patholgoists as a profession should be leading, guiding, teaching how in terms of language, communication, listening, social, literacy,and speech programming.  So when I meet the ABA therapist who has no training in the aforementioned areas and they are teaching those things, I must ask the profession “Why and How did we allow this to happen?”  “Where was the meeting that ok’d this, and where was I?”

We’ve given up our scope to so many other professions that our relevance has been diminished and I don’t see the advocacy for it.

While in graduate school, I learned about swallowing, the oral motor mechanism, and physiology.  So why are occupational therapist the people parents and other professionals call on to do feeding and swallowing therapy?  After all, please correct me, but OT’s do not have in their formal training the education of the anatomy and physiology of the waist up…and what’s their course in swallowing called?!?

Here is more evidence:

  1. Social Connectedness therapies (you know them….), have repackaged early childhood development, cognitive develoment theories.  SLPs have given teaching social language development to a profession that does not know language.
  2. I see Occupational therapists programming communication devices…(what else is their to say about that one).
  3. ABA therapists teaching language and reading.  
  4. The advocacy and laws for insurance legislation for Autism, do not mention speech language pathologists, they mention ABA.  If an SLP wanted to be part of this (i.e TriCare) and they do not have a BCBA or BCABA (bachelors level certificaton), they are identified as an ABA Tutor and work under the BCBA.  Now there are a million things wrong with that picture!  Where was our advocacy?!?

The relevance is taken away from us because we don’t have data or enough of it.  We say things like “you can’t take data on social skills”  We say things like” I dont’ have time for it on my caseload”.  We whisper when we see the ABA therapist teaching language, but say aloud “I don’t know what to do with that child, he has way to many behaviors”.   We sit at IEP meetings and are our reports are not exhaustive and the data reports no progress…as if it’s the child’s fault. SMH!

Here’s the thing…we took ourselves out of the game.  While everyone was getting their hands dirty and learning more and more about what we do…we continued to work and conform to the stereotype of “primadonnas of the therapy world”.

Now while there are excellent speech language pathologist’s out there…there are some that are okay with giving up on our relevance.

I am definitely not okay with SLPs as a profession becoming less and less relevant because so many our doing what we have been educated to do.  It”s time for “Better Speech and Hearing Month” to be a call to the profession to stand up and be counted!

~Enjoy and Be Empowered

Landria Seals Green

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