As future audiologists and speech-language pathologists, you're going to spend much of your time being an advocate—for your clients, for their care, and for the treatment you're proposing.
Because you're entering a profession that can be affected by decisions made by your state and federal legislators, your voice is an important part of the future of the professions.
Grassroots advocacy is an easy way for chapters to get involved. Learn about current issues, contact your legislators and government officials, and tell them your story. Your goal should be to raise awareness of current issues, and make them real by sharing your stories and passion.
Student Advocacy Day—TBD
Join forces with fellow CSD students and NSSLHA chapters to make your collective voice be heard on Student Advocacy Day—connect with your members of Congress about the federal-level issues that are most important to you and the professions.
State Association Event
In addition to getting involved at the federal level, it's essential to get involved at the state level too. The best way to do this is by getting involved with your state association! They're your best resource for info related to state licensure, regulations, and upcoming issues. Often, state associations will schedule meetings with local and state representatives to advocate for the professions. So, getting involved with your state association is a great way to jump into advocacy, as well as network with your future colleagues.
Can't participate in one of the events mentioned above? Organize a time for your chapter to get together and reach out to members of Congress through the student section of ASHA's Take Action webpage.
Here are some great examples from our chapters:
Central Michigan (Grad): Michigan Dyslexia Laws
Our NSSLHA group wrote letters to our Michigan Representatives regarding the Michigan Dyslexia Laws. We wanted to have our voices be heard by writing and urging that Dyslexia-focused legislation needs to be passed as bills to get the students who have Dyslexia the help they need and deserve in their school systems. These bills focus on trying to get teachers taught and instructed in how to help those that have dyslexia, as well as get them the intervention they deserve. Our program has a dyslexia evaluation team so our organization feels strongly about this and it is often overlooked or brushed aside. We had around 25-30 of our members participate in sending letters. This was completed during a meeting and we all submitted letters electronically.
Cal State Sacramento (Combined): For our first legislative advocacy event, we invited three school-based SLPs to an Advocacy Panel to discuss their experience working in schools and identify what areas there is a need to advocate for. Because all of us are still students, we wanted to have a deeper understanding of what working SLPs are going through, especially coming back from many schools being locked down. Some questions we asked them included the following:
What do you do to advocate for your students/families?
How do you advocate for yourself and your colleagues?
What is the most passing advocacy issue in Speech and/or Audiology right now?
What should students know about advocacy and/or these issues?
During this event, we identified that the main thing SLPs felt they needed more support on is managing their caseload. In the Sacramento area, there is not a cap on caseloads and only averages, and this meant some SLPs felt their caseload was too big for them to manage on their own even though it met all regulations.
This event had a big impact on our members and we used this as our baseline to draft a letter to representatives in California.
Butler (UG): Our second legislative event was tailored personally towards commending the incredible strides taken by Indiana Senator Greg Porter. We reached out to thank him for supporting SEA 5 (Interstate Compact and Reciprocity) which allows for easier access to services for Hoosiers living near our border states and SEA 284 (expanding telepractice) which gives permission for students, among others in this field, to provide supervised therapy services via telepractice. These are meaningful bills that will make a difference for the clients we serve.
We initially connected with Senator Porter as aspiring speech-language pathologists during Advocacy Day with the Indiana Speech-Language-Hearing Association. After encouraging him to take legislative action relevant to our clinical practice, and he responded! We invited him to Butler University in hopes of meeting once again and presenting certificates of appreciation from our National Student Speech- Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA). We are kindly awaiting a response to this email to find commonality in our availability and to coordinate a ceremony.
We believe that advocacy is important, but hands-on, personalized advocacy is even more advantageous. We hope to make this a tradition in years to come.