It's a Science and an Art - How to Find the SLP That's Right for You
Speech-Language Pathologists, or SLPs, are not all the same (nor should we be) and finding the right fit for your child’s team is crucial to timely progress. In honor of Better Speech and Hearing Month, I want to discuss the differences in clinicians, how to protect yourself from fraud, and how to find the “right fit” for you and your family.
First, let’s start with the simplest difference- our credentials.
Requirements vary state to state, based on your state’s current licensing laws. It is vital to use a clinician would is full certified and licensed to your state’s laws. A speech-language pathologist must adhere to the licensing laws of his or her state and failure to do so is fraud. Across all 50 states, a speech-pathologist must have at least a Master’s degree in order to work as a speech-language pathologist or speech therapist. Some SLPs have been “grandfathered” in with a Bachelor’s degree if it was obtained prior to a certain year. If you are interested in your clinician’s schooling, just ask them! Many of us are proud of our alma maters and will gladly share with you our experience.
Here in Virginia, a speech language pathologist must have a post-graduate degree in speech pathology, communication sciences, or other related field such as special education. If practicing in the school system, it is not required to have ASHA’s CCC (explained later). If working in a private setting, such as a rehabilitation center, hospital or providing home visits, ASHA’s CCCs are required. For information about current VA licensure laws, visit our board here: https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/aud/aud_forms.htm
In neighboring Maryland, a speech-language pathologist also does not need to have ASHA CCC’s, but is required to hold a Master’s degree in speech pathology and pass a specific examination. Nearby, in North Carolina, a speech-language pathologist must have a graduate degree in speech pathology and obtain ASHA’s CCCs, in addition to his or her state licensure. All states require additional education to be completed annually or on a 2-year basis.
Of course, check with your local state licensing board for the most up-to-date certification and licensure laws. You can also verify that your child’s SLP holds a state license through a verification process with your state board.
The American and Speech Hearing Association is the governing board for speech-language pathologists, speech-language pathology assistants and audiologists. This board sets our guidelines, ensures our integrity and our ability to uphold the highest clinical and research standards. “CCC” stands for Certification of Clinical Competence and requires the completion of a Clinical Fellowship. During the Clinical Fellowship, the applicant is supervised and guided individually through clinical practice. He or she has a supervisor to learn from while making independent clinical decisions. The ASHA CCC’s also provide access to educational resources and require maintenance each year. You can check out www.asha.org for more information regarding national certification.
Another new trend, especially in rural or hard to access areas, is telepractice. For ethical telepractice, the clinician must be licensed in both the state where the clinician is located and the state the client is located in. There are additional considerations for web security, internet speed, and technology compatibility to be considered as well.
Our credentials are just what get us in the door of our career. Our science is also an art (which is why you will see universities offer Master’s of Science and Master’s of Arts degrees in this field, depending on the program). In the brushstrokes of our daily professional lives is where you will find your child’s (or your own) fit.
The Art Behind the Science
As therapists, and as human beings, your speech-language pathologists will have different areas they excel in, areas they want to pursue more work in, and areas they prefer to avoid. Personally, I am a pediatric SLP that works well with children who present with profound communication challenges, increased behavioral supports, and a sensory-based approach. I often refer out or seek advice from my colleagues if I have a client who has dyslexia, reading comprehension or a stubborn /r/ or /s/ sound distortion that just won’t seem to correct. What can I say, I grew up near Boston and didn’t develop an /r/ until I moved to NC in my early 20s!
Do not be afraid to ask your SLP what his or her professional interests and disinterests are. Again, we are talkers and sharers! We will love and welcome your care. However, just because the SLP says she is weaker in an area your child needs help in, that doesn’t mean she isn’t the best fit. Look at her willingness to ask for help, refer to others and adapt her approach to your child. We are professionals and are provided a basic foundation in all areas, one which we build our career from. This SLP with a weak area may find she actually likes this area; something that happened to me 5 years ago with feeding therapy.
What is an artist without the way she holds her brush? She may have all the paints, in all the colors; but the manner she holds the brush and strokes the canvas is ultimately what we, the viewer of art, see as worthy of hanging in our living room. Observe your SLP, ask questions and be an active parent in the therapy session, especially in the beginning. Judge your child’s willingness to come and attitude after multiple sessions. Ask your child! We are in a therapeutic relationship together. You don’t hang out with friends that make you uncomfortable, why settle for an SLP who isn’t connecting with you or your child?
Now I ask you to consider this, who you would like as an SLP for you or your child. What qualities does this professional have? Is this “perfect SLP” structured and rule-based or more fluid and dynamic? How does your child learn; through pictures and words or movement and doing things together? Does your child perform best with you in the room? Do you want feedback and tips for home activities or sheets of homework for structured practice? What type of person do you connect and work best with? How about your child, who do you see him connecting and working for best?
You may not have the widest selection of clinicians to pick from. If your child is receiving services through the school system, you may not have much of a choice at all. It’s important to establish a close and working relationship with your SLP. You may not agree with every word or approach we take. We may not agree with your every action or plan. This is okay, we are not here to agree. We are here to work together for your child’s benefit. Ultimately, we all should have the same goal- for your child to be independent as much as possible, and need speech therapy as little as possible.
Looking for a fresh set of hands on your child’s team? Contact Susan with Let’s Play Speech Therapy and we can discuss your options.