5. SLP Collaboration

Let’s say there are four kinds of collaboration.

DEFINITIONS

1. Inspirational. “Everyone-work-together-positively-for-the-good-of-struggling-children.” This type is quite idealistic but inspirational for young SLPs. It makes for a spirit of cooperation on the job. If collaboration opportunities crop up, SLPs are encouraged to join in and offer their expertise. Inspirational collaboration can lead to creative partnerships:

“Moving out of a pull-out therapy setting and into the classroom can prove to be beneficial for students, teachers, and speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Changing settings to provide therapy develops a relationship between the classroom teacher and the SLP. This relationship offers a creative solution to many…” questions of caseload management, peer interaction, and transference of learning to the classroom (Richmond, Super Duper).

2. Promoted. This type is where professional organizations promote types of collaboration thought to be important to the professions and school children. A 2001

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

position statement by the the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) argued for SLP involvement in literacy programs:

“That document stated SLPs have a critical role in the development of literacy for students with communication disorders of any severity and that SLPs are to contribute to literacy efforts within their school districts and communities on behalf of other students. The ASHA document further stated those roles were to be carried out collaboratively with others who possessed expertise in the development of reading, writing, and related processes” (Hammond et al., Speech Pathology2).

3. Negotiated. This type concerns role relationships and assignments for cooperative projects. At issue is negotiating changes in job descriptions and school expectations. SLPs depend on pull out services, and administrators believe this is their proper role. They do not necessarily think of related service personnel functioning on educational teams.
SLPs must change expectations.

Weak negotiations can bring about diminution of role standing: “Ehren (2000) expressed a concern regarding collaborative SLPs becoming classroom teachers or aids. She asserted that determining the roles professionals take in spoken and written language-based skills is compounded by the pervasive and critical role language plays in school learning” (Speech Pathology2). It is normal for teachers to think language and literacy are the domains of educators and not SLPs.

4. Mandated collaboration. On the basis of national trends associated with IDEA 2004, local school districts are implementing prevention programs such as response to intervention. Administrators have money to train staff and the responsibility to develop plans for staff assignments. They can change job descriptions following program guidelines and employment agreements under “other duties as assigned.” SLPs might not want to participate in response to intervention but they are obliged to. They may prefer traditional direct service.

CONCLUSION

We see degrees of collaboration ranging from preference to obligation. The most provocative is mandated collaboration. Since 1997 SLPs have been integrated into special education in support of “progress in the general curriculum.” As IDEA has evolved, the law has moved toward imposing collaboration on SLPs regardless of their scope of practice. If someone says SLPs must be assigned to cooperative literacy education, it becomes a fact.

Here, we argue collaboration is simply best practice and should be adequately taught at the preservice level of SLP graduate education. Language and literacy should be within scope of practice as related domains and taught accordingly, if they are essential to the changing theories and legal foundations of public education. It should not be advisory and left to inspiration and creativity.

Neither should collaboration lose its direction: All programs should have as their general purpose to reduce the needless placement of at-risk children in special education. Why go to the trouble of creating expensive complicated service delivery plans if we lose sight of what is really important — to prevent over-identification of American school children.

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