How Much Say Does ASHA Really Have?

(Picture courtesy of  picjumbo)
Does anyone else get a tad bit frustrated when reading forums? There are times I just want to yell "CHECK  YOUR STATE'S GUIDELINES!" Admit it...I'm not alone!
How much say does ASHA really have with our rules & regulations? Ultimately, it is your individual state's' responsibility to provide with the guidance needed. ASHA's guidelines appear (to me, anyway) to be suggestions for each state. ASHA does an excellent job of giving us recommendations, and, for the most part, the states seem to use those to make their rules & regs. 

For example, Caseload/Workload. ASHA has specific directions in figuring out workload, but are very quick to point out that each state and district has their own guidelines. They also have Eligibility and Dismissal Criteria suggestions. A quick look at those suggestions, and I see a glaring contradiction between ASHA & my state's guidelines right away: the use of the terms "academic achievement", and, as used in my state's guidelines,  "educational performance" (which includes academic, social, emotional, and vocational). To make things just a little confusing, ASHA also included the U.S. Dept. of Ed.'s stance on educational performance(which goes right along with my state's guidelines).

ASHA has given us the means to advocate for ourselves, which we all should be doing. In comparison with teachers, we are a relatively small group, and many of the people who set our guidelines aren't aware of just what all we do. I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect that those who are setting our state guidelines (and making the final decisions) aren't practicing in the schools and haven't for a while. 

We need to be heard. How can we do that? 

1. Get involved with your state organization and advocate for yourself with your LEA. 
2. Give a presentation to your school board. There are strength in numbers, so recruit the other SLPs in your school system to help out.
3. Did you know that every state has a State Education Advocacy Leader (SEALS)? You can find yours here. Get in touch with them and see what the hot topics are in your state. You may be able to tell your SEAL your concerns and get the ball rolling.

Most of the SLPs I know have strong personalities; so why are we shy about getting up in front of an audience and speaking about our passion? Are we afraid there will be questions we can't answer? The way to avoid that is to give a well thought-out presentation and take the time to research. Think about questions that a person who has no idea what we do may ask you. Use your spouse or a family member who may not know exactly what you do as a "dummy audience" and see what questions they have. Refer back to ASHA. Fortunately, they have done a lot of the legwork for us. The information is out there; look for it!

To answer the question "How much say does ASHA really have?", the short answer is "directly...not much"; the longer answer: "indirectly: quite a bit"! It's good to know ASHA's view on different situations. Going to your administrator and complaining that you're being asked to do something that goes against ASHA isn't going to get you very far. It's the state's decision whether or not to implement ASHA's suggestions. If there are things that need to be modified in your state, start with your local school system/district, and work your way up from there. And bring some friends with you along the way!

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