Roles and Responsibilities of Speech & Language Pathologists
School-based speech & language pathologists (SLP’s) have integral roles in education and are essential members of school faculties.
Working Across All Levels — SLPs provide appropriate speech-language services to students in preschool, elementary, intermediate, and junior high school.
Serving a Range of Disorders — As delineated in the American Speech-Hearing Association (ASHA) Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology and federal regulations, SLPs work with students exhibiting the full range of communication disorders, including those involving receptive and/or expressive language, articulation (speech sound disorders), fluency, voice/resonance, and swallowing.
Ensuring Educational Relevance — SLPs address personal, social/emotional, academic, and vocational needs that have an impact on attainment of educational goals.
Providing Unique Contributions to Curriculum — SLPs provide a distinct set of roles based on their focused expertise in language. They offer assistance in addressing the linguistic and metalinguistic foundations of curriculum learning for students with disabilities, as well as other learners who are at risk for school failure, or those who struggle in school settings.
Highlighting Language/Literacy — Current research supports the interrelationships across the language processes of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. SLPs contribute significantly to the literacy achievement of students with communication disorders, as well as other learners who are at risk for school failure, or those who struggle in school settings.
Providing Culturally Competent Services — with the ever-increasing diversity in the schools, SLPs make important contributions to ensure that all students receive quality, culturally competent services. SLPs have the expertise to distinguish a language disorder from “something else.” That “something else” might include cultural and linguistic differences, socioeconomic factors, lack of adequate prior instruction, and the process of acquiring the dialect of English used in the schools. This expertise leads to more accurate and appropriate identification of student needs. SLPs can also address the impact of language differences and second language acquisition on student learning and provide assistance to teachers in promoting educational growth.
Prevention — SLPs are integrally involved in the efforts of schools to prevent academic failure in whatever form those initiatives may take; for example, with MTSS, SLPs use evidence-based practice (EBP) in prevention approaches.
Assessment — SLPs conduct assessments in collaboration with others that help to identify students with communication disorders as well as to inform instruction and intervention, consistent with EBP.
Intervention — SLPs provide intervention that is appropriate to the age and learning needs of each individual student and is selected through an evidence-based decision-making process.
Program Design — SLPs configure school wide programs that employ a continuum of service delivery models in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities, and that they provide services to other students as appropriate.
Data Collection and Analysis — SLPs, like all educators, are accountable for student outcomes. Therefore, data-based decision making, including gathering and interpreting data with individual students, as well as overall program evaluation are essential responsibilities.
Collaboration with Other School Professionals — SLPs provide services to support the instructional program at a school. Therefore, SLPs’ unique contributions complement and augment those made by other professionals who also have unique perspectives and skills. Working collegially with general education teachers who are primarily responsible for curriculum and instruction is essential. SLPs also work closely with reading specialists, literacy coaches, special education teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, school psychologists, audiologists, guidance counselors, and social workers, in addition to others. Working with school and district administrators in designing and implementing programs is crucial.
Collaboration within the Community — SLPs work with a variety of individuals and agencies (e.g., physicians, private therapy practitioners, social service agencies, private schools, and vocational rehabilitation) who may be involved in teaching or providing services to district students.
Collaboration with Families — SLPs engage families in planning, decision making, and program implementation. SLPs are in a position to provide training to parents of students of all ages with regard to communication development and disorders. They may be especially helpful to families in creating a language- and literacy-rich home environment.