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Language and Literacy: The Scope of Practice of School-based Speech-Language Pathologists in Vermont Public Schools (2005)

Language and Literacy: The Scope of Practice of School-based Speech-Language Pathologists in Vermont Public Schools (2005)
Janet Coe Hammond, MS, CCC-SLP, Patricia A. Prelock, PhD, CCC-SLP, Julie Roberts, PhD, CCC-SLP, Marjorie Lipson, PhD
February 28, 2005

University of Vermont
Burlington, VT


This investigation examined the perception of school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in Vermont regarding the level of importance of incorporating assessment and treatment of literacy issues into their scope of practice, and their level of comfort doing so. Cross-sectional survey data were compared. The survey consisted of a mailed, self-administered questionnaire for a quantitative assessment of current scope of practice in literacy and language, comprised of 20 forced-choice items, and write-in responses were invited. Respondents indicated; having knowledge of literacy development was very important, while skill in literacy instruction was somewhat less important. Respondents appeared to feel most confident in areas central to traditional areas of practice within speech-language pathology, such as phonological awareness and vocabulary. Caseload size had no strong correlation with regard to the practitioners' feeling of the importance of literacy instruction and feeling of competence. The extent to which SLPs in Vermont are currently (2005) participating in literacy development, and identification of practices that may support SLPs involvement in fostering literacy, are discussed.


This study investigated the perceived importance and knowledge of written language (reading and writing) in the practice of school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in Vermont schools. A secondary consideration of this study was to identify variables that may impact the ability of school-based SLPs to carry out their literacy role in school settings.

In 2001, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) released their Position Statement, Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists with Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents. 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. Additionally, SLPs were to be an appropriate resource for assisting general educators, parents and students in advocating for effective literacy practices and advancing the knowledge base of literacy practices (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2001).

The 2001 ASHA Position Statement was followed in 2002 by the document, Knowledge & Skills Needed by Speech-Language Pathologists with Respect to Reading and Writing in Children and Adolescents. The 2002 document outlined the knowledge and skills needed by SLPs to effectively participate in literacy development. Appropriate roles and responsibilities for SLPs included; prevention of written language problems and fostering emergent literacy for all students; identification and assessment of students at risk for written language problems; providing intervention and documenting outcomes for students with written language problems and, advancing the knowledge base of literacy development. The skills and knowledge needed to implement the identified roles and responsibilities include in-depth comprehension of the nature of proficient reading, writing processes, word knowledge, sentence structure, spoken-written language reciprocity, and levels of literacy development (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2002).

Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998) found that students who are successful readers are taught in classrooms that display a wide range of possible approaches to instruction. This is because many students learn to read in almost any classroom, with almost any instructional emphasis. However, students who are at risk for reading difficulties generally require high-quality educational support and outstanding primary instruction to succeed in their understanding and use of written language (Snow et al., 1998).

Janet Coe Hammond, MS, CCC-SLP

Janet Coe Hammond received her B.A. from Indiana University (Bloomington) in Biological Sciences in 1981. She then received her M.S. from the University of Vermont in 2004 in Communication Sciences in 2004. Janet has been employed at Williamstown Middle High School in Vermont for 1 1/2 years, where she works with students in grades 6 - 12.


Patricia A. Prelock, PhD, CCC-SLP

Patricia A. Prelock received her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in 1983 in speech-language pathology with a concentration in cognitive psychology. Dr. Prelock is Professor and Chair in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Vermont. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology and is a board recognized Child Language Specialist. Currently, she is Training Director for the Vermont Interdisciplinary Leadership Education for Health Professionals Program (a federal project funded through the Maternal & Child Health Bureau) and Project Director for the Vermont State Improvement Grant-SLP Assistant Program.

Julie Roberts, PhD, CCC-SLP

Marjorie Lipson, PhD

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