A speech therapist’s assistant, known as a speech-language pathologist assistant, provides support to a certified speech-language pathologist in either a clinical or school setting. SLPAs receive training in either technical schools or colleges. However, to determine if assistants are allowed in your state, contact the state speech pathology licensure board, the state department of education and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Depending on the state where you live, the requirements to be an SLPA may vary. Although ASHA has specific certification standards for speech pathologists, the organization issues only recommendations for SLPAs. The minimum requirements, according to ASHA, include completion of academic course work leading to an associate degree from an approved technical school with a program for SLPA certification and training. In some states, a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology or communication disorders is required. In either case, fieldwork or clinical experience, under the supervision of a certified SLP, is required, along with on-the-job training specific to the SLPAs duties.
General Education Courses
Although each state provides guidelines for speech pathology assistant programs, ASHA provides some recommendations. Suggested general education courses include classes in oral and written communication, including grammar and usage, composition and public speaking. ASHA further recommends general education course work in math, social and natural sciences and technology, including computer literacy, word processing and software applications.
Most training programs require that prospective SLPAs take courses in normal speech and language development, communication disorders, anatomy and physiology of the speech mechanism and phonetics. An SLPA also needs training, either through course work or field experience, in workplace behaviors, effective communication skills, confidentiality and methods for relating to clients. Some training programs also include courses in cultural aspects of language, interpersonal communication, sign language and bilingualism.
Recommended field experience includes 100 clock hours of client contact under the direct supervision of a certified SLP. Through field experience the SLPA becomes familiarized with the assistant-level service delivery model, including technical procedures and ethics. The supervising facility provides feedback through their own assessment tools and verification of technical proficiency.
Upon completing course work and field experience, you are prepared to work in either a clinical setting or public school, depending on your state's standards. As an assistant, you conduct daily tasks under the supervision of a certified SLP who has full legal and ethical responsibility for the assistant. You may follow treatment plans generated by the supervising SLP and may assist in screenings and evaluations, but may not administer standardized tests or make clinical judgments relating to the tests. You may provide administrative support, prepare materials, schedule activities and maintain equipment. You may also be responsible for programming and providing instruction with augmentative communication devices.
Michele Norfleet is a freelance writer who writes on travel, home and garden and education topics. She has coauthored a handbook for teachers on school-wide discipline and has contributed tips for special-needs students in the basal curriculum for RCL Benziger. Norfleet holds a master's degree from Southern Illinois University and has experience as a special-needs teacher and speech pathologist.