Adventures in Advocacy (again)

When a group of school-based SLPs get together, there are a few things that will happen for certain.

First, they will talk non-stop. That’s what we do and I have yet to see an SLP that doesn’t love language and the use of it. 

Second, at some point, there will be discussion of caseloads and how high they are.  There will be whining, teeth gnashing, and general discontent – and rightly so. In most areas, SLPs are trying to bail a sinking ship and it’s simply not working. With many caseloads in the 80s and 90s (or 100s), there is no way to provide effective therapy for the children on our caseloads.

Ultimately, the SLP burns out because he or she is doing tons of paperwork at home instead of at work where it should be done. The absolutely worst crime though, in my opinion, is the very people we desire to help (our students) may be the ones that suffer the most.

Recently on the SLPeeps page on Facebook, the discussion came up again. This time, it was with the preface of not having enough time to do the fun things that we all know and love. Having great therapy ideas only work when we have time to implement them. As a result, we often rely on “drill and kill” to fulfill the minutes of the IEP and meet the basic of therapy needs, without truly connecting with the students and going that extra measure.

Several times now, I have discussed advocacy here. Yet, I haven’t gone the extra step to figure out what we need to make it happen. Today, I provided information to the FB page and suggestions on what we need to do. We can’t ask ASHA to do things for us that we are unwilling to do for ourselves.

Why? You ask…great question. Because ASHA is not a legislative body. Yes, they lobby – at the federal level. They can set guidelines and do all they can do to make suggestions…but just like drinking ages, helmet laws, and speed limits, each state makes its own rules. If we want change we… let me say that again… WE must advocate for ourselves at the state level.

This link from ASHA  helps provide some ground work on HOW to approach your state legislative bodies:

What I suggest is:

1) get people in your area together, discuss the problems and solutions to the problems. We cannot just present problems – we must present solutions as well. 

2) Arrange, as a group, to meet with a representative or three from your state agency ,

3) present the problems and solutions and ask for discussion to occur at the state meetings,

4) be prepared to testify to departments of education, legislative committees, etc.

5) AS A GROUP discuss the issues with the state legislators – explain what the issues are and how it affects their constituents. 

And last but not least, write-up blurbs for the papers, your state association newsletters, your Council for exception children association newsletters, and ASHA. 

We can be a powerful force if we gather together and make proactive suggestions. It will be slow going and I’m sure it will be painful (as I know many have already discovered), but doing nothing is getting us no-where fast.

If you are unhappy with your state’s standing on caseload vs workload, caseload caps, etc. NOW is the time to do something about it. Not next week…not next year…now.

Remember: If there is a problem, you are either part of the solution or part of the problem. If you are not an active part of the solution, you are, by default, a part of the problem.

I am sure there will be those of you I’ve offended…and for that I’m deeply apologetic. I know many of you have already tried to make changes and feel like it’s failed. But we have to keep trying. Only when we give up, have we truly failed.

For the rest of you, I’d love to hear your suggestions on how we can make a change. How are YOU going to help your state make a change?

Until then…Adventure on!


4 thoughts on “Adventures in Advocacy (again)

  1. I was just having a similar thought about the SNF setting and productivity requirements. We go through the same chat, gripe, burnout cycle. I wondered if contacting ASHA could get support for corporate productivity requirements being unethical if they are X% or higher.

  2. Mary, very thought-provoking blog entry. I’m sure you have some ideas about how to fix the system, and I’d be very interested to know how you’re thinking about the solution. As far as I can see, the problem is only going to get worse. The number of kids who are being assigned to speech therapy is increasing and the number of SLPs just isn’t keeping pace. Do you think technology could help in any way?

    • Technology is a wonderful thing. However, when you figure in the meetings requirement for each student (RTI or IEP), plus paperwork, I don’t know that there’s anyway to implement technology. It’s not just a matter of trying to do therapy for those 100 students, it’s everything else.

      I also doubt that there’s technology that can replace a trained ear (at this point). It can definitely help – but I don’t think it can do therapy for us. 🙂

      We are our own worst enemies when this subject comes up. We do what has to be done and it doesn’t matter if it’s at the cost of home time, family time, or sanity.

      If we continue to DO the work, then administration – powers that be – have no need to change the situation. If 1 SLP can do the work (even if she’s bringing work home every night/weekend and her kids aren’t making the progress they should be), why go to the expense of hiring another SLP?

      Sadly, I think this is going to have to be a hard-fought battle to see any changes. But to start that battle, we have to be willing to step out of our uncomfortable positions and quit taking the status quo situation.

      • The strange thing is, I’ve never seen an SLP yet who has free time on her hands :-). There just aren’t enough SLPs to go around, let alone good-quality ones. I honestly don’t think hiring another SLP is going to be a workable solution out of this caseload mountain. What can we do that will allow us to make do with fewer SLPs than we would ideally need, while, at the same time, giving our kids the best therapy they can get?

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