By Shawna Pope, Speech-Language Pathologist
I have long advocated for our field due to encroachment and sometimes outright take over from ABA therapists. I have numerous examples that have been sent to me regarding SLPs losing their clients due to an ABA therapist taking over and pushing them out. It has happened in schools, early intervention, private practice, and I am hearing about them making a move for nursing homes and home health. The biggest defense against this damage to our field is to point out that ABA is a set of principles that can be applied to any profession in an attempt to increase outcomes by using reinforcement. It is NOT a stand alone therapy, intervention, or teaching method. BCBAs or ABA therapists with no formal education hired by BCBAs to do therapy have zero training in language development, language disorders, anatomy, phonetics, literacy, literacy disorders, neuroanatomy, or any of the other coursework SLPs take to become speech, language, and communication experts.
Often the stories that have been sent to be describe a situation that begins as collaboration and ends in the ABA therapist taking over. In ABA, there is no room for another perspective or approach. ABAs like to "collaborate" because they need information from SLPs to know what to target and how to do it. And yes, many SLPs have told them before they realized what was happening.
I am aware there are examples of successful collaboration efforts between SLPs and ABAs and that not all ABAs practice outside of their scope. However, just because this sometimes occurs does not erase the need to advocate for our field and clients to attempt to lesson the damage being done.
This plan has been in the works for years. When I taught in higher ed I saw the encroachment begin. Now, in my former department there is reportedly a sign with an arrow pointing down the hall to the BAT department that says " Speech and Language Lab." This encroachment is not an accident. Some states have successfully intervened in the licensing attempt of ABA therapists to ensure that our scope of practice was not included in theirs. All states need to be aware of this and do the same. This issue is being discussed and planned for by ASHA and by the state associations. They cannot do it alone. All SLPs need to be advocates for their field and educate parents, our schools, and the general public on the differences between the practice of speech-language pathology and ABA principles.
By Martha Dunkelberger, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, University of Houston
The current House Tax Bill includes increases in taxes on graduate students by more than 200%. This is because the bill as it stands now will tax the tuition waivers that graduate students are awarded as part of their employment package. In most cases, those tuition waivers are roughly double or higher value as the stipend that they already pay taxes on. In other words, they're going to get $100 in a paycheck, but pay taxes on $300.
If you're a speech-language pathologist or audiologist, that's going to affect our profession drastically since there's already a shortage of PhD level people in our fields. Academic programs will suffer first, but the practice areas will follow shortly thereafter with more severe shortages of well-qualified staff.
By Craig Coleman, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F
In the summer of 1999, I was a first-year graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. I was eager to enter the field, and excited to take a course in Professional Issues in Speech-Language Pathology. We had many guest speakers who talked about their experiences in the field. They were all very engaging and held my interest in learning more about the field. They also scared me to death! What I didn't know at that time was that a law had recently been passed that placed a $1500 cap on Medicare services for speech-language pathology.
Many of the speakers talked about how this cap had eliminated jobs in their work setting and the future of the profession uncertain, at least if you wanted to work with adults. As someone who was much more interested in the pediatric population, I had two thoughts: 1.) Whew. I will still be able to get a job. I feel bad for my classmates who want to work with adults. 2.) Wait, those SLPs who worked with adults and lost their jobs might now work with pediatrics and take my future job!
Fortunately, every year since 1999, Congress has passed an exemption on the cap, and it has not been in place since. Not coincidentally, I have had a job since then as well.
Back in 1999, students were encouraged to be active in professional issues if they wanted to be--it was encouraged, but not mandatory. Times have changed. Professional advocacy is now even in the ASHA Scope of Practice. If the field is going to thrive, we have to be active.
I created this website to give my students an opportunity (nah, really an obligation) to advocate for the profession by writing blog posts about important issues, contacting legislators, and contacting NSSLHA chapters from other universities to engage them in the advocacy project as well. They have done an amazing job, but now we need your help. We need students and professionals to write for the blog to share your stories of advocacy. What do you need? What has worked for you? What issues are important to you? How can you have the resources you need to be successful? If enough of us engage in this discussion, this can be a great resource to refer to when discussing issues with legislators, insurance companies, and other stakeholders. We need you to write for us! Send us your posts that you want to share and we will publish them here! Here is what you can do:
1. Read the Blog regularly to stay informed on important issues.
2. Write about issues that are important to you and how we can help. Send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will publish them!
3. Share the website (www.slpadvocacy.com) with others and encourage them to get involved.
Thank you for reading and being engaged!
By Samantha Gregory, Leah Gibson, & Tayler Dye
The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s (ASHA) “Restore Graduate Student Loan Benefits” legislative brief advocates for graduate students to be eligible for subsidized loans. These types of loans do not accrue interest for the borrower to pay back. Graduate students should be eligible for subsidized loans because graduate students are independents who would qualify for, and benefit from, these loans. The academic responsibilities of full-time graduate education does not often allow for the time commitment of a full-time job, which is needed to pay for tuition and living costs.
ASHA’s “Reject Student Aid and Loan Forgiveness Changes” legislative brief advocates for the rejection of the 2018 education budget, because it does not include funding for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and is reducing the number of income-driven loan repayment plan options from five to one. PSLF forgives student debt after 10-years of working in a public service setting combined with 120 consecutive loan payments. Eliminating the PSLF program will remove incentive for speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to work in schools and in at-risk school systems. There is currently a shortage of school-based SLPs, and removing an incentive to work in these locations will cause more professionals to take jobs in other, higher-paying areas like hospitals, long-term care, and private practice. PSLF does not forgive loans immediately, but after 120 consecutive payments. This means that many individuals are in fact paying back a large amount of their loans. Any interest that has been accrued may remain, but the federal government that gives out the loans is still being repaid large amounts of the original loan. The cost of PSLF is not as high as the long-term negative consequences of eliminating it.
Income-driven repayment plans allow for flexibility of payments. Reducing options will decrease the likelihood that individuals will be able to keep their monthly payments manageable, and increase the likelihood of defaulting. The combination of unsubsidized loans, elimination of PSLF, and reducing the flexibility of income-driven repayment plans, will inevitably put more strain and debt on graduate students pursuing professional degrees and careers. This may result in the discouragement of students to enter into graduate programs, and, in the long-term, reduce the number of professionals providing services and the amount of loan repayment.
Graduate Student Loans and Student Aid and Forgiveness Changes can be best advocated for by writing letters to the members of Congress who represent the writer. Other avenues for contacting members of Congress are phone calls and emails. Below readers will find a script from which individuals can read:
“I am a constituent in your federal district and I am calling to advocate for Subsidized Graduate Student Loans and for a rejection of the 2018 education budget proposal. The budget currently does not allow funds for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and reduces the number of income-driven repayment plans from five to one. I study/work in the field of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and believe that these issues have a direct impact on the trajectory of my education and professional career. According to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association:
Both audiologists and speech-language pathologists require a post-graduate degree in order to be licensed in most states. Eliminating eligibility for graduate students to obtain federal loans has significantly increased the cost of borrowing, and resulted in negative impact on students who wish to pursue a graduate degree in a variety of fields, including audiology and speech-language pathology. (Graduate Student Loans)
Demand for both audiology and speech-language pathology professionals is expected to increase in the future. An additional 4,300 audiologists will be needed to fill the demand between 2012 and 2022 - a 19% increase in job openings. Speech-language pathology ranked 13th out of the 20 large-growth occupations. (Student Aid and Loan Forgiveness Changes)
“Public Service Loan Forgiveness incentivizes SLPs to work in schools and at-risk school systems. Removing the incentive will cause more SLPs to take higher paying jobs in the medical setting, further aggravating the existing obstacle of lack of SLPs in schools across the nation. Reducing repayment plans will increase the likelihood of default. Finally, PSLF is only applicable after 120 consecutive loan payments, by which time most students are paying only accrued interest or have a small amount of the original loan left to be forgiven. The federal government is receiving most of the loan in repayments. Therefore, eliminating PSLF and repayment options will create relatively fewer savings at the cost of continued and worsening obstacles for students and debt.”
Our plan is to distribute information about the discussed legislative briefs and provide scripts for contacting legislators. Your Legislators can be located at www.govtrack.us/congress/members.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017). Index of key issues: Graduate student loans. Retrieved from: https://takeaction.asha.org/asha/Index
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2017). Index of key issues: Student aid and loan forgiveness changes. Retrieved from: https://takeaction.asha.org/asha/Index
By Courtney Harrison, Cat Carpinelli, & Caroline Eckels
The treatment of any communication disorder is a dynamic process that requires levels of assessment paired with clinical expertise, evidence based research, and patient preferences.
Human beings are, by nature, unique which means that each individual with a communication disorder will require specific, individualized treatment. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work under a broad scope of practice, and are licensed to treat a variety of communication disorders. An Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) approach is necessary in order to uphold both ethical and effective treatment techniques for those whose needs SLPs and other health professionals serve. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is perhaps the most dynamic disorder with which those in the health professions field may be presented, as it is a spectrum disorder that may present with any number of classifying characteristics, including: impaired social skills, difficulty with speech or other forms of communication, and repetitive behaviors (Autism Speaks, 2017). Dr. Stephen Shore, an Adelphi University professor who has autism himself, once said, “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” (What is Autism, 2017). This is a popular quote in the ASD community because in one sentence it highlights the importance of understanding that ASD is not a fixed disorder, and to classify or predict the needs of someone based solely on their diagnosis would be unfair, unethical, and ineffective. Individuals with ASD often struggle with social communication, can exhibit language problems, and may have restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior or interests (ASHA, 2017).
Understanding the varying differences among each individual with ASD is why it is important to understand the need for variability in treatment approaches. The treatment of ASD is an inter-professional task that cannot be limited to one field. Those with ASD require, and are entitled to, a dynamic set of services that meet the needs of their dynamic diagnosis. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a popular treatment technique that is used in the treatment of ASD. Legislation has been proposed in some states that would limit individuals with ASD to receive only ABA, as it would not fund any other type of therapy (Key Issues, 2017). While ABA can be an appropriate approach, it is not the only appropriate approach. It is the responsibility of those in the interprofessional fields that treat ASD to ensure future legislation will not limit the services provided to these individuals, and that interprofessional encroachment does not occur. Ethically, it is imperative that those with ASD receive services from individuals who are trained to administer these therapy techniques. An ABA therapist does not have the same scope of practice as a speech-language pathologist, and visa versa. These individuals require many other types of therapy to help them successfully communicate and be an active member of society. Funding should cover all treatments that the individual shows a specific need for. ABA is not a coverall treatment for this highly variable disorder.
For a deeper understanding of this specific treatment, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines ABA as the intervention and evaluation drawn from the discipline of behavior analysis that allows one to understand the reasons that certain behaviors may occur (ASHA, 2017). ABA uses many techniques that target the increase of useful, positive, and meaningful behavior and the decrease of negative behavior that may cause harm or impede learning (Applied Behavior Analysis, 2012). ABA techniques encourage basic skills such as conversing and understanding another’s perspective, listening and imitating, looking to gain attention, and reading and writing skills (Applied Behavior Analysis, 2012). Individuals with ASD may lack such skills, which is why ABA treatment is recognized as a beneficial treatment for those on the spectrum. Much of the instructions in ABA are highly geared toward speech and language acquisition which is where a speech language pathologist is most beneficial to have as a part of an interdisciplinary team.
It is both impossible and unnecessary to deny that ABA is a beneficial therapy approach for children with ASD. That being said, just as no two children with ASD are alike, no two therapy approaches should be identical, but rather should be individualized to fit the specific needs of each child. Therefore, ABA alone is typically not sufficient for treating children with ASD. A multidisciplinary approach is usually pertinent, and may include components of ABA coupled with other therapy options (ASHA, 2017). While there are a variety of different treatments for ASD available, perhaps the most significant is therapy provided by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). SLPs are trained and certified to address a variety of communicative needs for children with ASD including, but not limited to, social and pragmatic use of language, writing, literacy, executive functioning, and play. Additionally, SLPs can use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) with children with ASD who are nonverbal or have limited language and can modify them to meet the needs of the individual. SLPs are also trained to help children with ASD who have food aversion or textural issues (ASHA, 2017). They can be trained to administer a variety of accepted ASD treatments as well. This includes the following: PRT, Verbal Behavior, ESDM, Floortime (DIR), RDI, TEACCH, and SCERTS. SLPs are not the only professionals that should be considered when treating children with autism (Autism Speaks, 2017). Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, psychologists, and special education teachers may all play a role in treating a child with ASD (ASHA, 2017). Each child must be evaluated for their specific needs and deficits, and an intervention plan that may include any of the aforementioned elements should be put into place.
As of right now, there is no specific legislation in place that limits ABA as the only treatment technique for those with ASD, but that may change in the near future as individual states are leaning toward only funding ABA(Applied Behavioral Analysis, 2012). Again, it is the responsibility of those in the health professions field to ensure that ASD is treated in the same regard as other communication, neurological, and general disorders. The treatment should be chosen based on the individual’s needs and in most cases, children with ASD are dependant on more than one type of therapy. Individuals should not be denied access to effective or appropriate therapy techniques because they are not funded in the same way that ABA is funded.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA]. (2017). Applied Behavior Analysis
and Communication Services. Retrieved from www.asha.org/NJC/Applied-Behavior-Analysis-and-Communication-services/.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA]. (2017). Autism (Autism Spectrum
Disorder). Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Autism/#two
American Speech-Language Hearing Association [ASHA]. (2017). “Index of Key Issues.” Key Issues
Index. Retrieved from https://takeaction.asha.org/asha/Index
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). (2012, July 24). Retrieved October 21, 2017, from
Autism Speaks. (2017). Treatments & Therapies. Retrieved from
“What Is Autism?” What Is Autism - Understanding the Autism Spectrum. (2017).
Retrieved October 22, 2017 from