Emerging Trends in Speech-Language Pathology: ASHA 2023 Insights on MTSS, EBP, and Combating SLP Burnout

12/06/2023

The ASHA Convention in Boston this year was more than just an event; it was a beacon of knowledge for professionals in the speech-language pathology field. As an Amplio District Relations Executive and a former school-based speech-language pathologist (SLP), attending this convention was a reaffirmation of Amplio’s commitment to staying at the forefront of industry trends and best practices.

The Amplio team – which includes several certified SLPs – looks forward to this event every single year. We take full advantage of meeting up with our customers and end-users in-person, connecting with SLP innovators, and networking with members of Amplio’s Advisory Council.  Getting to see all these familiar faces in real life instead of through Zoom squares is such a delight!

In this post, I’m excited to share some of the key themes and highlights from the convention that left us feeling particularly energized. These insights are more than just observations – they’re set to influence how we at Amplio support the SLP community and the school districts we serve. From embracing new instructional methodologies to understanding the nuanced challenges of our field, the ASHA Convention has been a vital source of learning and inspiration for us. Let’s dive into some of the key themes and explore how they resonate with the ongoing journey of speech-language pathology and education.

Embracing the Multi-Tiered System of Supports in Speech Therapy

One of the standout themes at the ASHA Convention was the discussion of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), a framework that’s rapidly reshaping the landscape of special education and speech therapy. MTSS discussions highlighted the framework’s potential to create more efficient and effective educational experiences for students with diverse needs.

MTSS, as part of the broader Response to Intervention (RTI) process, involves a layered approach to providing services and interventions. This model is significant for its focus on universal screening, high-quality instruction tailored to student needs, and frequent progress monitoring. What makes it particularly compelling is the use of child response data to inform educational decisions, marking a shift in assessing underachievement.

For SLPs, this represents both a challenge and an opportunity. The role of SLPs is expanding beyond conventional intervention practices to include more substantial contributions in RTI program design. This involves a deeper understanding of language’s role in curriculum and assessment and a move towards more collaborative, classroom-based interventions. SLPs are now expected to engage more in the identification of at-risk students and work closely with other educational professionals in designing and implementing interventions.

Moreover, early intervention and support have become a priority. By focusing on early, effective intervention strategies, issues are addressed before they escalate, aligning with the objectives of IDEA  for the use of special education funds.

The goal of implementing RTI and MTSS is less about adding tasks and more about reallocating time and resources for effective early intervention. Successful programs in this model require strong leadership and a collaborative environment where SLPs play a critical role in advocating and implementing these strategies.

MTSS and RTI are transformative processes that call for a reevaluation of traditional practices in speech-language pathology, emphasizing prevention, collaboration, and data-driven intervention. For Amplio, this aligns perfectly with our mission of providing innovative, evidence-based solutions to support SLPs in these evolving roles.

Reinforcing the Role of Evidence-Based Instruction in SLP

At the heart of this year’s ASHA Convention was a vital theme: the importance of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) in the realm of speech and language skills education. The numerous sessions on this topic underscored a fundamental shift in how we approach teaching and therapy in the field of speech-language pathology.

EBP in SLP is about grounding our approaches in solid, research-backed methods. It’s a move from relying solely on personal experience or traditional methods to incorporating findings from the latest scientific studies and best practices. This shift is crucial, as it ensures that the strategies and interventions we use are not just effective but also adaptable to the diverse needs of our students.

For Amplio, these discussions reinforce our commitment to providing resources and tools that are both scientifically grounded and appropriate for diverse learners. It aligns perfectly with our objective of offering SLPs the means to deliver the most effective, inclusive, and up-to-date interventions to their students. The insights from ASHA about EBP are actionable directives that we are excited to incorporate into our ongoing efforts to support the SLP community.

Integrating Emergent Literacy in Speech-Language Pathology

Another pivotal theme from this year’s ASHA Convention was the intricate overlap between emergent literacy and speech-language pathology. Several conference sessions emphasized the importance of incorporating literacy into speech therapy, highlighting how closely interlinked these areas are in a child’s development.

One key insight was the role of morphological awareness in language-literacy success, especially in children with developmental language disorders (DLD). The research presented demonstrated a significant relationship between morphological awareness, language skills, and, indirectly, literacy skills. This underscores the need for SLPs to include literacy-focused strategies in their therapy, particularly for children at risk for or diagnosed with DLD.

Another fascinating discussion revolved around how librarians and fellow educators could implement high-quality, evidence-based language and literacy strategies during activities like story time. This approach extends the impact of literacy development beyond the classroom, emphasizing community involvement in nurturing these essential skills.

Additionally, there was a focus on comprehensive emergent literacy assessment and treatment. This includes understanding phonological awareness, emergent writing, and alphabet knowledge, and how these elements play a crucial role in a child’s literacy journey. Presenters highlighted that SLPs’ training and knowledge often allow them to recognize signs of dyslexia and reading difficulties in students, and to support the development and acquisition of phonological skills essential for reading.

Incorporating these literacy elements into speech therapy aligns with the broader scope of practice for SLPs as outlined by ASHA. The convention’s insights made it clear that all aspects of written language are integral to our language, and by extension, to the practice of speech-language pathology. For Amplio, these findings resonate deeply, as they align with our commitment to providing comprehensive, evidence-based tools and strategies that support both speech and literacy development.

Tackling Burnout and Enhancing Morale in SLPs

A critical theme addressed at the ASHA Convention was the issue of burnout among SLPs, an increasingly pressing concern in our field. The facts are stark: SLPs are grappling with high caseloads and administrative pressures, leading to burnout and affecting staff morale.

However, as we know, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this multifaceted problem. Effective strategies require a comprehensive approach. In our work with school SLPs at Amplio, we’ve observed that districts with the highest levels of engagement and staff morale share certain characteristics:

  1. Manageable Caseload Sizes: It’s crucial for administrators to monitor and maintain caseload sizes at manageable levels. Timely intervention, such as deploying additional staffing support when necessary, ensures that SLPs can focus on quality care without being overwhelmed.
  2. Unified Tools, Resources, and Training: Districts that provide equal access to high-quality resources and ongoing training foster a supportive environment for SLPs. This not only enhances their professional development but also ensures a consistent standard of care across the board.
  3. Engaged and Connected Administration: Perhaps most importantly, districts where administrators remain closely connected to the day-to-day challenges and successes of their SLP staff tend to have higher morale. This connection fosters a sense of community and support, which is vital in reducing burnout.

At Amplio, we understand the importance of these factors and strive to support SLPs through our technology, resources, and professional development, aiming to alleviate some of the pressures that contribute to burnout. By addressing these key areas, we can collectively work towards a healthier, more sustainable work environment for SLPs.

Moving Forward with New Insights in Speech-Language Pathology

The insights gained from this year’s ASHA Convention are practical directives that can and should be integrated into the daily practices of SLPs. As schools navigate these evolving trends and realities, it becomes increasingly important to rethink and enhance how we support speech-language pathologists and other special education providers.

At Amplio, we are committed to this mission. By merging evidence-based programs and resources with innovative technology that alleviates administrative burden, we’ve created a comprehensive and collaborative platform designed specifically for school-based SLPs. This platform is not just about providing tools – it’s about fostering a community where shared learning and support are paramount.

We encourage SLPs and educational professionals to explore the resources Amplio offers. Together, let’s apply these insights and continue to enrich the world of speech-language pathology.

Julie Bogle

Julie Bogle

Julie Bogle, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a Learning Programs Developer and Platform Trainer for Amplio. Julie is a nationally certified speech-language pathologist who has extensive therapy and diagnostic experience in a variety of settings, including schools, medical facilities, and online therapy.

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