How do speech language pathologists make sure their professional opinion is valued and respected when they gain an extra area of expertise?
As a speech-language pathologist, obtaining continuing education units (CEUs) is an important part of staying relevant and credible and keeping up with ASHA requirements. SLP CEUs allow you to continue refining your skills, become an expert in your field, and shape yourself as a well-rounded, professional who will stand out from the rest of the market.
We’ll dive into the story of Maureen of the blog Speech Bubble SLP and touch on the experiences of a number of other SLPs so that they can share what they found the difference was for them between doing autism CEUs or autism certification.
The Limits of Free CEUs and Subscription CEUs such as Medbridge
Free SLP CEUs are widely available, or those that you pay for from a subscription service such as MedBridge. While these are great options and cover a lot of different areas of expertise, they mostly just help SLPs maintain what they already have in the professional world.
Typically no one will know which continuing education courses you’ve taken or what you’ve learned from them. They won’t know you have any extra expertise in a certain area even if you take all the free CEU or subscription CEU courses available in that area.
Many SLPs have found that it takes doing a little something extra in order to add to their credibility and perceived expertise among both parents and peers in certain areas, especially regarding expertise in a field like autism.
Maureen who runs the blog Speech Bubble SLP, found that even after taking just about every continuing education course she could find on autism that her opinions still weren’t being taken seriously by her non-SLP coworkers (administration and therapists alike), even when they lined up well with other subject matter experts.
As stated by Maureen from the Speech Bubble SLP:
“After all that I felt pretty firm in my understanding of Autism, the varying degrees, possible needs, and support ideas. However, back at my school my knowledge that I have worked hard to gain and maintain about this area went overlooked because I was the SLP, not the psychologist or the social worker. Even though we often would all work with the same child and have the same thoughts and ideas about needs and treatment, my administration seemed to bypass me when these students came up.”
We’ll revisit Maureen’s experience again throughout the blog, as it has mirrored a number of other SLPs who decided to pursue certification for similar reasons.
While free SLP CEUs can be tempting, there are extensive advantages to earning your Autism Certification as an SLP, as opposed to settling for free CEUs.
Free SLP CEUs or Subscription CEUs are Great for Knowledge; Not Recognition
Free SLP CEUs are convenient, but convenience doesn’t always equal a better choice when it comes to your professional development.
In fact, many SLPs agree that taking shortcuts when it comes to developing your skills and investing in your professional knowledge just isn’t worth it. Maureen found that even though she had been taking all of the continuing education she could, her ideas still weren’t getting the respect they deserved in a field she had spent a lot of time and effort developing her expertise.
In her words (continued from above):
“…my administration seemed to bypass me when these students came up.This quite frankly drove me nuts.
I needed something to show my administration that had sufficient knowledge of these students to be included in those conversations. I looked for colleges that offered Autism Special Certificates but they were out of my area ( by a few states ) and expensive. More researching into their programs showed that they would required courses that focused on many of the area that I had already taken oodles of CE hours on. Now, I am not saying that a college course is a lesser quality than a CE course, I am simply saying I had already taken many, if not all in some cases, of the types of classes that these programs wanted. So what to do?”
– Maureen, The Speech Bubble SLP
Maureen found that most of the options available to her were either far too expensive for what they were offering (and how much duplication they had with what she had already done) or they wouldn’t get her the recognition she was seeking.
Autism Certification- Get Recognized for Your Extra Expertise
Gaining CEUs is a process that takes time, energy, and dedication. Many SLPs find it frustrating when they invest their time into free CEUs, only to find themselves unable to prove the new knowledge they have obtained. Without a certification to add to your resume and present to potential employers and clients, free CEUs can leave you feeling limited and stuck with no tangible way to display extra areas of expertise.
“After ASHA (a total blast btw), I was introduced to IBCCES aka the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards…IBCCES offers the opportunity to qualify for two possible certificates depending on their prerequisite standards. With my Masters Degree, years of working, and the amount of CE hours in the area of Autism (you need at least 14 hours specifically in the area of Autism in two years) I could fill out their application for their Certified Autism Specialist credential.”
While Maureen already had the credit hours specifically in autism she needed for certification, anyone who takes the Certified Autism Specialist™ course can also go through the included curriculum.
Certification can either help to show the expertise that you have already developed or it can both help you develop new expertise and gain proper recognition for it.
3rd Party Credibility Across Peers, Administration and Parents Alike
Credibility is one of the most important factors when it comes to your success as an SLP. Having an autism certification will instantly add to your credibility and position you as an authority when working with the autism population.
“So what does that all mean for me? It means I now hold a certificate that I can present to my administration to show that I have been evaluated and qualified to have the understanding and knowledge of a specialist in the area of Autism!” – Maureen, Speech Bubble SLP
In many cases that recognition has very direct consequences:
“A large portion of my caseload continues to be individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and with their caregivers. Since obtaining my credential as a Certified Autism Specialist, I have seen a big increase in opportunities at my school and overall the receptiveness from both the parents and my peers has been phenomenal.”
Andrea S. White, CCC-SLP
“It has provided me with continuing education as well as education from similar fields. This has helped me to have perspective of others on my team such as a behavior specialist, occupational therapist, and/or teacher“ said Jennifer, an SLP who completed the certification.
Increased Earnings and Career Advancement
An autism certification can open many doors that those without a certification probably won’t have access to. Potential for increased earnings and career advancement opportunities are very likely for someone who chooses to invest in a certification because they are able to demonstrate their deep understanding of a specific area in their field.
“CAS was instrumental in my acceptance into a specialty program with Texas Tech University. My professional education and work experience in bilingual speech-language pathology, sociolinguistics, social and behavioral sciences has enhanced my ability to work effectively as part of multi-disciplinary teams in medical and educational settings.”
Dr. Love Johnson, CCC-SLP
Taking Your Career and Confidence to the Next Level
While many SLPs are constantly working with the autism population, few of them have much direct training with autism or are aware of the ways that individuals with autism might respond differently to common practices.
This can often interfere with getting the targeted gains for students and lead to portions of therapy sessions being wasted due to unnecessary overstimulation, miscommunication or unintended overwhelm. Autism certification helps to make sure SLPs are properly prepared to get the best results when working with individuals across the autism spectrum, helping to raise both effectiveness and confidence levels.
“I feel privileged to have been apart of the CAS program; truly brings increased confidence to my practice.”
Jess, MS, OTR/L, CKTP, CAS
Why an SLP with Autism Specialization is in High Demand
With autism prevalence continually on the rise, SLPs with verifiable 3rd party credentials in autism are highly sought after. Due to the autism population due to ASD being a very unique, case-by-case disorder there is no such thing as a one size fits all approach, and true understanding is necessary to achieve the best outcomes for each individual student.
This is something that parents and administration are often aware of, but without certification they have no way to verify who is better qualified to handle this wide variety of individuals.
“I pursued the Certified Autism Specialist Credential as confirmation that I provide my students current best practices and methodology. As a result, more and more of my staff has been awarded or is currently pursuing their CAS credentials.”
Karen Ann Gill, Director of Education
And while complete specialization is not going to be something that many SLPs will want to do, it can also open doors to focusing more specifically on one area:
“Focusing my career on autism has helped me dramatically service my students. Currently, I solely work with the autism population in a 5th-8th grade middle school. My students are a mixture of both self-contained and mainstreamed students. Not only do I feel more confident working with this population, but I feel that my knowledge and expertise has changed the way I service students. I also feel more knowledgeable when working with both other professionals and parents of my students.“
Who was the Certified Autism Specialist™ Curriculum Developed by?
The CAS curriculum was developed by a diverse board of directors that consists of cutting-edge cognitive experts from all over the world. This includes BCBAs, researchers from leading universities, state-level special education directors and business leaders, clinicians in mental health, SLPs, occupational therapists and parents.
The board of directors has approved the CAS program, which focuses on six areas of autism competency: an autism overview, behavior, program development, early childhood identification, parent communication, and comorbidities.
This Autism Certification allows SLPs to become valuable resources who are well-versed in best practices regarding autism. With the ability to earn CEUs through an ASHA approved provider upon request SLPs can complete the entire certification online and at their own pace – no need to leave home or attend expensive, time-consuming conventions.
Not only does the Autism Certification enable SLPs to demonstrate their advanced knowledge of autism to parents, clients, and co-workers, but this specialized certification increases the chance of district and hospital contracts.
Why Focus on Autism?
As the autism population increases rapidly, this is an important community to consider specializing in. 1 in every 44 children has been identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). With ASD impacting all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups the demand for autism-specialized SLPs will only continue to increase as time goes on. That means almost 2,000 children out of every 100,000 will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
If you currently work closely with the autism population, or are planning to, an autism certification is a smart investment that will provide lasting benefits for you and your career.
Conclusion: Is Autism Certification Right for You?
While free SLP CEUs or subscription CEUs from Medbridge or another provider might be more convenient and seem like less of an investment, an autism certification is an advantageous opportunity for the SLP who is looking to build a successful career, a strong reputation, and a powerful skill set.
As ASD impacts more and more of the population, healthcare professionals who have advanced knowledge of autism are becoming highly sought after.
“It boosted my confidence and I am acknowledged with my skills in providing utmost care for children with autism through the credential that paved the way to my current position in work.”
Rod Charlie, OTRP, CPMT, AC
With IBCCES you can improve your reach as a Certified Autism Specialist and make a substantial impact while advancing your career.
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