#049: How SLPs Can Advocate at the Local, State, and National Level (Part 2)

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Well I don’t know about the rest of you, but I felt so fired up after last week’s conversation with Kayla Redden that I just had to dive a little deeper into advocacy! And, since it’s Better Hearing and Speech Month, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to celebrate and connect with another total SLP-boss – Dr. Lyndsey Zurawski.

Dr. Zurawski works as a speech-language pathologist and diagnostician in The School District of Palm Beach County, and you’ve likely read her major blog, Speech to the Core. As the recent past President of the Florida Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, she’s got a ton of ideas and experience when it comes to standing up and being heard! ✊🏼

If all this talk of advocacy makes you feel some major impostor syndrome (ME, stand up at the STATE level and talk about why SLPs should have smaller caseloads!? 😱), you can take a deep breath. This might not be the season of your life when you have the time, energy, experience, expertise to stand up at the podium (literal or figurative!) and call the world to action, and that is totally fine.

But, as Lyndsey shares with us, there are so many ways you can support those forefront leaders, even from the safety of your kitchen table. (Spoiler – ASHA makes it super easy to write to elected officials. They’ve already written the letters, so you can just sign and send!)

And, someday down the road, when you’re waiting, buzzing with excitement, to see if you’ve been elected the new President of your association, you’ll be so proud of yourself for taking your first baby steps into advocacy. Remember to thank us in your acceptance speech! 😉

So grab your beverage of choice (I’ll have a chai latte!), put your feet up, and listen in.

Key Takeaways + Topics Covered

– Advocacy – Taking part in or supporting an action to recommend or support a cause or issue
– There are lots of networks and resources out there to get you started. For Lyndsey, it was the ASHA Leadership Development Program.
– Attending conferences, meetings (virtual or IRL), and presentations are great networking opportunities. Talk to others who have taken leadership roles, and they may have ideas of how you can get involved!
– We all have full plates. How much time do you have to commit, and is this the right season of your life to get deeply involved?
– A simple way of advocating is using your social media platform to share articles or petitions.
– There’s no contribution that’s “too small.” Think about what issue fires you up and contact your state association to see how you can support change.

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

Speech to the Core
Florida Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists
National Student Speech Language Hearing Association
ASHA Leadership Development Program
ASHA Special Interest Groups
ASHA Student to Empowered Professional program
ASHA Advocacy Group on Facebook

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Transcript

Marisha: Hello there, and welcome to The SLP Now Podcast. This is the second episode in our advocacy series. I invited a couple SLPs to chat about all things advocacy for Better Hearing and Speech Month, and I am incredibly excited to be introducing, Lyndsey Zurawski.
She is an SLPD, CCC-SLP. She works as a speech-language pathologist and diagnostician in The School District of Palm Beach County. She also created and maintains the popular SLP blog, Speech to the Core, and authors numerous e-products in the areas of language and literacy. She is the immediate past president for the Florida Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, and also has some other advocacy roles that she plays in the SLP community. That's why I invited her here today, to just brainstorm some different ideas with us and continue the advocacy discussion.
So without further ado, hello, Lyndsey.

Lyndsey: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be back on with you this time talking about a little bit of a different topic.

Marisha: Yes, very different topic but super helpful. You already gave a little bit of a sneak peek about all of the different tips and ideas, and I am so excited. I can't wait. Before we dive into all of the good stuff, can you just break down what advocacy is? What does that mean to you? What does that look like? Just do a quick run through there.

Lyndsey: Sure. And I think advocacy looks a little bit different for everyone depending on where you are in your career, where you work, or what you're involved in. But we can look at advocacy as being defined as the ability to have or take part in an action that we are looking to either recommend or support a cause or just pleading for what we want to do in support of a specific issue.
And then when we look at what ASHA says, ASHA says that we're looking at advocacy as being essential and necessary for which ASHA as our association, our national organization and affiliated state associations, support and help to assist and advance our professions both in audiology and speech-language pathology. And really looking and delving deeper into that public policy, political action and popular opinions that we have like as our in-the-trenches SLPs and audiologists. Don't want to forget about those audiologists.
And so when we look at that, we're looking at, what are those issues that are facing us today, but also looking ahead to the future and how do we try to get those issues to the forefront both within our specific work settings, through our organizations, as well as at that political agenda level? And to get legislation passed to support us in our professions.

Marisha: Well, thank you for that overview. Super helpful. And now I'm super curious to hear more of your story. How did you get involved in that role? What do your experiences look like? Whatever you're willing to share, I'd love to hear.

Lyndsey: I'm pretty much an open book. I've been a speech-language pathologist for 15 years now and my career has taken all sorts of different turns. I think the one piece that has been stable is that I've been a school-based SLP for my entire career. I do some other things on the side, but I was never really involved with any associations early on in my career or even at the student level. I was a student member of NSSLHA, the National Student Speech Hearing Association, when I was at Florida State in my undergrad program. But after that, I really just dropped off the whole volunteering and being involved map.
And so back in 2013, I had been an SLP for eight years. I decided to take a leap of faith and be like, "Oh, I'm going to get involved," and I applied for ASHA's Leadership Development Program, and they have different cohorts each year. And this one, they had two different ones happening at that time. There was an early career professional and a school cohort. And I really wanted to apply for the school one and someone that was close to me just said, "You know, you don't need to pigeonhole yourself into just doing school stuff, you can go ahead and do the early career one because you might get exposed to SLPs and audiologists that are in different fields and maybe you can have a broader view of things."
And I was like, "Huh, okay." Which I think looking back, I could have done either one and still walked away with an amazing experience. But I did get accepted into the program and the program is a year long program. And what it does is you participate in webinars, face-to-face workshops, and you complete a leadership project. And the ultimate goal of that program is to help speech-language pathologists and audiologists to foster their leadership skills with the hope that you're ultimately going to give back to the profession in myriad of ways and that includes volunteering at the state level through your state association, through ASHA, or within your workplace getting involved on committees or advocating within your workplace for specific issues within your own community, through like being a social media expert, and then as well as being an advocate like through related organizations like maybe the National Education Association or International Dyslexia Association, any different related associations.
And so for me during that time, the topics that were covered, they just really struck me as changing me as a professional. And those included things like leading and participating in virtual meetings, building high performing teams, motivation and influence, coaching and mentoring, conflict management and strategic thinking. And in addition, also as part of this program, you completed an emotional intelligence assessment to be able to build upon your strengths and weaknesses. And it was fascinating because the things I thought were strengths maybe weren't as strong as I thought they were, and things that I thought were weaknesses were more of my strengths, but it really helped me to learn more about myself and how to capitalize on those things, and as well as strengthen the areas that I was weak in.
At that time I was going through the LDP program, I decided to attend my state conference for the first time in probably 10 years since I was a student. All the while I had always gone to ASHA, I went to ASHA every year from the time I was a grad student and still do, I had never really been a huge supporter of my state association. Again, I can't really tell you why. I think it was because it wasn't really talked about when I was in grad school, there wasn't really anybody pushing it or supporting it. And so I went to the state association and I presented for the first time. I had never presented before.
And so during that time, I met, Debra Dickson, and she was the former ASHA Director of School Services. And I took a chance, I walked up and I was super nervous, I introduced myself, and we instantly established a rapport, developed a working relationship. I had told her that I was in the Leadership Development Program and I was like, "Oh, if you have any advice... " We just got to talking and emailing back and forth. And from there, some different doors opened for me. I decided to start taking some chances and presenting on school issues at the state level continually as well as the national level at ASHA.
And so there were some different opportunities there, but in addition, at that time, the current president of FLASHA, which was Vivian Topp Klein, she had said, "Hey, would you be interested in getting involved with FLASHA some more?" And I was like, "You know, I don't know, I don't have a lot of time," which is what we hear from a lot of people, right? We hear, "Oh, I don't have that much time to give back to an association. It's time consuming." And she said, "Well, you don't have to run for a board position. I'm looking for someone to chair a task force, to address school issues." And I was like, "Oh, okay. That sounds like something up my alley. It's directly related to my job and what I do and what I'm interested in."
And so the goal was to determine the highest priorities for school-based SLPs in Florida. And so the task force developed a survey, we sent it out all over the state members and non-members, and compiled the information, determined that caseload/workload issues were the most pressing issues, which it probably isn't a surprise to anyone. But from there we started working on developing a caseload/workload legislative plan and that was due to the fact that Florida, like many other states, does not currently have a caseload/workload cap.
And so the task force continued working for several years to develop a legislation. We, members of the group including myself, met with various legislators, whether it was in our home offices or along with meeting with legislators at the state capital along with our lobbyists. And we did successfully obtain a sponsor for that bill, but it didn't make it all the way to the committee floor. We're revamping and working on that and it's just an ongoing advocacy issue.
In addition, I became further involved with the state association through the time of this task force. I ran for a board position and it was the vice president of SLP practices for FLASHA, and then it just became like a natural transition. I wanted to become involved more. It was like I drank the Kool-Aid. I was like, "Oh, I want to do more." So I ran for president-elect and then that went into the president of our state association. I just ended my presidency at the end in June. I was president for the state association for two years, and now I'm the immediate past president for two years.
I'd always had this little secret goal of, I don't know if it was a secret, but goal to become ASHA president one day. And I don't know if that'll ever happen, but I don't know where my path will lead me, but we'll see. Now as the past president of FLASHA, I'm still involved with our board work, but I'm also involved in committee work through ASHA. I got involved with ASHA, I kept putting my name in, and I know we hear a lot from people on social media that I put my name in for committees and I never got called upon. Well, there are so many SLPs that put their names in and there aren't enough boards, committees or councils for everyone to get involved in.
And so we're going to talk about that a little bit later about how else can we get involved and to just keep putting your name out there because I think that the more you do, I kept putting my name in and putting my name in and putting my name in, and then finally, I got a call one day about being on a committee, which was the School Finance Committee. And I have to tell you, I was like, "School Finance? I don't know anything about finance," but it turned out to be the best learning experience. And being able to provide input as an in-the-trenches school-based SLP, brought a different perspective to that group. And now I'm currently a member of ASHA's School Issues Advisory Board where we discuss current issues that face school-based SLPs and then that is communicated to the ASHA Board of Directors.
In addition, I am also the president-elect of CSAP, which is the Council of State Association Presidents. This is a group of state association presidents that get together, discuss the issues that face the different states, and try to determine ways that we can further help and spread the mission and visions of our state associations to all speech-language pathologists and audiologists across all of our states.
That's the story of how I got to where I'm at, I guess, today. It seemed a lot faster when I was just telling you about it, but it was a much slower process. But I am grateful for those different steps and different people who have come across my path to help me and to really urge me to get involved or to stay involved.

Marisha: Yeah. I love hearing your journey and all of the amazing things that you've done. That is so incredibly inspiring. Thank you for sharing that. And then I have a sub-question here because you work as a school-based SLP, you've got a lot on your plate. Like you have your blog and all of the resources you're creating and then adding on, all of these different roles. Do you feel like you have any tips in terms of how you juggled that or how you prioritized or just how you made that element happen? Because I feel like that's one of the most common concerns. It's like, "I don't have time for all that."

Lyndsey: Right. And I think that I had to reprioritize. My blog has taken a back seat, unfortunately. While I love that avenue of being able to share and communicate, I now have taken more to using just Instagram and Facebook to share quick posts rather than actually blogging, because something had to go and it's not my husband and it's not the dog. And my job comes first and foremost and then comes all of the other volunteer experiences.
I think that it is a matter of deciding what you want to do and how you want to do it. I do try to make time, I think, for it all, in air quotes, because you never have enough time. But I think it's determining what your priorities are and what's important to you. And for me it's still continuing to advocate on behalf of school-based SLPs. I think that there are so many things that we are faced with. We need to continue to fight for what we need to do our jobs effectively. And for many of us in our states, that's caseload and workload because many of our states don't have caps.

Marisha: Yeah, exactly. That absolutely makes sense. And that really leads really nicely into the next question, and you addressed it already, but why is it important for SLPs to get involved with advocacy? Because I know a lot of us are thinking, "Well, it's just me. What am I going to do?" What would you say to that?

Lyndsey: I think a lot of us do think that, right? Just like, "I'm just one person. What difference does it make?" But if we think about that, that's like voting for the president, right? We say like, "Well, why do I need to vote? There're so many other people voting." But even that one vote can make a difference. And so I think our one voice can make a difference. But we shouldn't be thinking about it that it's just me, it should be like, I'm an individual, and then we as SLPs and audiologists as a collective whole, can allow our voices to be heard by participating in advocacy efforts and volunteering. And that's the only way that we can actually efficiently get things done, if we are all working in this together.
And I know, right now I think that's timely because we're hearing through COVID-19, we're all in this together, but we shouldn't just be during a time of pandemic, we should be all in this together all the time. And that's one of the things that comes up a lot in state associations is like, "Well, why should I be a member? I don't really see the value." Sometimes it's from school-based SLPs, sometimes it's from medical SLPs or private practice SLPs. And they'll say, "Well, the state association doesn't do anything for me." That what we see is when something is happening in that specific setting, which could vary year to year, that's when we see members increase depending on what's happening. But then what happens is, is we lose members year to year because it's like, "Well, there's nothing happening in regards to school-based SLPs, so I don't need to be involved."
But we need to be involved as a collective whole because it impacts us as a profession and we shouldn't be looking at it as setting specific. We are a profession of speech-language pathologists and audiologists, and if we work together we can get more things done.

Marisha: Beautifully said. I love it. That's super helpful. And then, if now we're totally convinced and onboard and ready to tackle all the things, what are some tips that you have to start getting involved and like where would you even start?

Lyndsey: I think for some people... I did reverse. I got involved with ASHA a little bit before I got involved with FLASHA, but I think for most people it's actually easier to get involved with the state, at the state level, before you jump to the national level. It's kind of like that. You need to crawl before you walk. But I think that it's whatever doors are open to you, so if you can volunteer for a committee in your state association. But first, you could just start with following ASHA Advocacy on Facebook and Twitter and following some of the issues, because they could post something and you're like, "Oh, that resonates with me." And then you could then post that on your social media and it could be something small, but just sharing and putting out that information, is one simple way of advocating. And we don't really think about that, but we can use the tools that we have right at our fingertips to share that information.
And then we can just sign up for volunteer opportunities. Each year like... I know in our state we just had a call for board nominations and we were looking for people to fill five positions on the FLASHA Board. And so we have a full slate and now we're doing our elections process in our state. But if you're not interested, if you're one of those people and you're like, "I don't want to run for a board position," you could get involved with being on a committee. You could just email one of the board members and say, "Hey, I'm interested in this, I'm interested in schools, I'm interested in government, I'm interested in membership, I'm interested in just posting some stuff on social media. Do you have an opportunity for me?" And many associations are looking for people just to help out in any way. And so I think if you just put it out there, you'd have some sort of communication, opening those lines of communication, with the state associations.
Now, ASHA is a bit more formal as in terms of signing up for volunteer opportunities. You can't just call ASHA and say, "I want to volunteer," but each year they put out a formal call for volunteers and that's your opportunity to look at the various boards, councils and committee vacancies, and check off the areas of interest for you. I remember one time I received a call and it was actually about joining the Board of Ethics, and I was like, "I don't think I'm ready to do that." And then I was a little nervous because I thought maybe I had closed the door on all opportunities, but honestly, I think I made the right decision because I wasn't ready to take on what that committee actually entailed. And instead, a few years later, I was able to participate in a different committee.
It took several years before that opportunity came up again, but for me it was the right time to say yes and to say no. Again, you can get involved like starting at that small scale, just getting involved in a committee at your state association. A lot of times state associations are looking for volunteers for their state convention, which happens yearly, or a few have like... Some have spring conventions and fall conventions, but getting involved that way and you can volunteer. You can volunteer to introduce speakers.
A lot of times I think, it's about networking. It's about getting to know different people around your state and then figuring out where you fit in depending on what your setting is or what your interests are. And again, just then using your social media accounts to promote what our roles and responsibilities are for speech-language pathologists in various settings, even providing like little quick tips and tricks for what you're doing within your setting.

Marisha: Lots of ideas. And I'm curious too, I haven't been very involved at the state level, but I know that I could volunteer at the conference like you said, like helping introduce speakers or just with any of the logistics around that. What other types of things could a state association potentially need volunteers for? Is it usually just around the conference or what else crosstalk-

Lyndsey: No. Each state has like their own structure for committees. Some structure are very similar to ASHA, others have different structures for their committees. But like one of our committees is, in Florida, we have a governmental ed committee. That committee has been around a long time and people have come and gone, but they have a pretty solid committee and they work on different issues that come up. One of the issues that has come up and that they were successful at, was our SLPA supervision requirements.
In Florida, we've had SLPAs for many, many years, but we are a very stringent state in regard to our supervision requirements. And so our committee worked with our department of health to change the rules and to support some changes to that SLPA rules, and provided a revision. That team worked for, I want to say about two years, maybe a little longer, but they worked as a committee. And then through the support of FLASHA, worked with our department of health.
And then we have things like many states have an education committee. So if you are a school-based SLP and you want to work on something like caseload/workload or salary supplements or different things, I would say a lot of times salary goes through the local education agencies, but things like that, there are different committees. Like we have a membership committee. Many states are looking to increase membership, so having, how do you reach out to your network and help to increase support for the state association and getting involved. Those are just a few ways I think really, just starting small and seeing what it is that you can get involved with.

Marisha: Yeah, that's super helpful just to have an overview of the different types of things that they are working on and if any of those sound particularly interesting and maybe if we're just dipping our toes in the water, seeing what we might be interested in, like you said, just contacting any of the board members to say like, "Hey, I'm interested in learning more. Is there anything I can do to help?" So maybe you can offer support with one of those projects without doing a full lot.

Lyndsey: Yeah. Even like students, I teach as an adjunct professor and I teach a school-based class, and so a lot of times I'll ask during our, we're talking about one of our last lectures when we talk about future trends and getting involved, and I always ask because the students are from all over the country, I'll say, "Are you involved in your state association?" And some will say, "Yes," and some will say, "I should be," "No," and I get all sorts of different answers. But those are representative of the same answers we get, not just from students but that we get from our professionals. Our working seasoned professionals that say, "No, yes, I should be, I don't know why I'm not."
And so students can get involved in a little bit of different way. Many universities have their own university chapters of NSSLHA, so the National Student Speech Hearing Language Association, they have their university chapters and then there's National NSSLHA. And one of the great things about that is that they have the Gift to the Grad, that conversion program. So if you're a member of NSSLHA, you do get a discount when you're applying for your Cs and things like that. There are some advantages to being a student member of NSSLHA, but also by being involved, you can do a lot of volunteer work, you can get some different opportunities. And a lot of students also within the university chapters participate with the state associations to put on like a student advocacy day where the students might visit their capital and go to on hill visits or get to see something or meet with a lobbyist or a legislator that the association has a good relationship with.
And again, just get that opportunity while they're students, just getting a little taste of what it will be like when they are working professionals. And then also for students, a lot of times, again, like ASHA has students volunteer at their convention, the big convention each year, but also states are looking for student volunteers as well. So, that's another way. Some states even have students sit on their board. Not every state, but some states do. They have like a student representative. Those are, again, just ways for students to be involved, starting from when they're in graduate school.

Marisha: And that's amazing. There're all sorts of good things out there. And then, so you shared a lot of advocacy opportunities already, especially at the state level and then at the national level with ASHA. Do you have any other examples that you want to share at those levels or are there any other ideas that...

Lyndsey: Yeah. I think there are some that people may not be aware of. There's, this is both for I think young professionals, which young professionals, typically 10 years or less, and as well as us that are seasoned professionals. And seasoned not meaning by age, but how long we've been in the profession. The state level, there are some volunteer opportunities that coordinate between the state and ASHA. And so three of those are through the SEALs, STARs and StAMPs. I'll tell you a little bit about each of those.
SEALs are State Education Advocacy Leaders, and these are individuals who are appointed typically by your president of the state association, but they work as members who are going to work and be on a committee sort of with ASHA where you are on a monthly call, and then you take back that information and present that and share that with your state associations. Some states have their VP of education be that SEAL. A lot of times they try to separate that and not have their board member do it, but have somebody else who is interested in being that representative.
And so SEALs, they advocate on education issues and these are things like caseload and workload, personnel standards, and it's really to continue to work on the goal. Is to perpetuate advocacy, leadership and any other skills that our members need to know of, both at the national and the state level to support our services within the school setting.
In addition, we have what are called STARs, which are State Advocates for Reimbursement. These could be speech-language pathologists and audiologists again who are appointed by their state president, and they're looking to really improve healthcare coverage and reimbursement. These could be targeting people like private practices, public agencies, as well as our legislation, and it can cover things like insurance, benefits. And really, again, looking to communicate between ASHA and the state association.
And then the last one are StAMPs, so the State Advocates for Medicare Policy. And these are typically individuals who either work in our private practice or in some sort of setting that are handling Medicare, but they're looking to advocate for Medicare coverage and reimbursement of our services. They know a different realm of information looking at like managed care and healthcare agencies as well as, advocating for our clients and our patients. And again, these are individuals who are going to work between the state and ASHA to communicate information.
In addition, just this is one easy way to... I don't know if I would say it's volunteering, but it's another way to just learn more information and then be able to share that out, which is through the special interest groups. And so these are affiliate groups that are looking to promote specific interests. And these are through ASHA, and ASHA has 19 different special interest groups. And so, a particular interest to school-based SLPs would be SIG 16, but there is SIG 1 Language and Learning and Education, SIG 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, SIG 18, which is telepractice, which of course is especially relevant and pertinent right now during COVID-19.
But by being a member of the SIGs, you are able to get access to member only forums where individuals are discussing any of the needs or questions that arise. And then access to the Perspectives Journal articles that are written, that you don't get just by being a member of ASHA. And again, it increases that ability to network with other professionals. At every ASHA convention, the SIGs have some sort of meeting. So like SIG 16 has a luncheon where all the SIG 16 members can come and talk about the issues that are facing that SIG.
And then another way to be able to get involved and just share out some information or share your input is through the ASHA member forums at the convention. At each convention, whether it is ASHA Connect during the summer or our National Convention in November, ASHA has member forums and that's where Arlene Pietranton, ASHA's CEO, and the board of directors come and they are there to listen and hear the members input and concerns. And so you're able to ask questions, they get answered, and if they don't get answered right then and there, they follow up with you. That's another way for members to be able to get and share information in a variety of ways as well.

Marisha: Ooh, so many cool opportunities. I love it. And then I'm curious too, what if SLPs are like, "I want to start even smaller than that. I don't want to get involved at the state or the national level or that in between level, which is super cool to learn about." What can they do just within their community or within their schools?

Lyndsey: Sure. I think that there is some opportunities for micro-volunteering, whether that is, again, that could be at your state level, but you could be doing something within your own a work setting. So setting up a committee where you want to gather the input from other individuals or... A lot of times we hear a lot about people complaining about what isn't done on their behalf, but sometimes we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to be heard, but we don't want to be the ones to do it. But we need to remember that like we are ASHA and we are our state association. We are the ones that make those associations up because we are the volunteers. We make up the boards, the committees, the councils.
But you can if there's a group at your work and you want to get together and share that and then share that information, or it could be figuring out what are the needs in your community, whether it's something like providing speech screenings to low-income families or whatever that might be or hearing screenings during May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month. It could be talking with a news outlet and sharing some of the things that we do as speech-language pathologists during May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month. So just finding a small task that makes up a larger project and completing that whether it's as an individual or as a group.
And another way to start small would be by signing up for ASHA's STEP program, which is, you become a mentee. You are a mentor to somebody. It's the Student to Empowered Professional, so you get a student and you mentor them. They try to match you up by interest or setting. That's a nice way to get involved without there being a lot at stake there.

Marisha: Those are some great ideas. I love that. And then, just I love your idea of doing things in the community. Of course, I think we have the potential to have a bigger impact if we're making those changes at the state or the national level because it can trickle down a little bit more, but I think it's a good way to start like exercising those muscles in a way.
And then just providing education at a local level because that can trickle up too, whether you're doing screenings, like you said, I love that idea, or like I partnered with the counselor for some things at my school. I've heard of other SLPs doing reading nights, they would invite families, and I think this was in a Title 1 school, but they would provide a book but it doesn't even have to be that fancy, but just like inviting them to the library and showing them how to pick a book and strategies to read it with their child. Those things can have a really big impact in helping those students directly, but then it also educates all of the people who are involved in that about what we do. And just increasing that exposure can be really helpful too.

Lyndsey: In a small way, I'm not sure if everyone knows, but ASHA sets a public policy agenda each year, and this helps guide advocacy for efforts for our entire profession. And this includes different things like healthcare schools, professional practice, but also advocating for our patients, clients and students. So things like full funding for IDEA, which is really important to us in the schools. But also more recently, coverage for SLPs providing telepractice. Because even with this switch to telepractice, in many states their laws did not allow for coverage of those services and ASHA works to try.
But sometimes ASHA can't do that, though that's where your state association comes in. Sometimes it's not about what ASHA can do, it's what your state association can do to support you. And again, that's really why it's really important to be a member of your state association. But we can also do get involved with virtual things. Every year, ASHA hosts a Virtual Advocacy Day, and that doesn't take a lot of time or effort. A lot of times they have prefilled letters and you can just type your information in and contact your member of Congress by sending a letter through that Virtual Advocacy Day for the issues that you feel very strongly about supporting.
But then you can also do things like visiting your legislators, whether it's at home or in D.C or at your Capitol. In Florida, my Capitol is very far from my house, so it's like a seven hour drive, but I can meet with legislators when they're home, when it's not the legislative session. So when they're at home, I can meet with them and bring up issues like caseload and workload and find out who would be in support of that for our state. But it could even be like things like, "Hey, did you know that schools don't have full funding? And here's why I think that you should support this, both at the state and national level."
And even then, if you just said, "I'm not really into contacting or calling legislators, what else can I do to further my skills?" You could get involved with like the Leadership Development Programs through ASHA, but some states are developing their own LDP programs. So you could find out if your state has their own Leadership Development Program and you could apply to one of those. And even something more simple is like letting your voice be heard by voting for the ASHA Board of Directors. For example, ASHA Board of Directors, the voting opened April 15th and it's available until June 3rd. And it's your opportunity to let your voice be heard, to help shape the association and to have leaders that align with your personal values, to support and guide the direction of the association as well as advocating for our profession.
And I'm not sure if you're aware, but only typically three to 4% of the over 200,000 members of ASHA, vote each year. It's a pretty staggering number when we think about how few people vote, but then again, comment about what ASHA's not doing. It's really important that if you want to see some things change, that you get out there and you vote and you provide your input. And that goes the same thing for the state association.
I think our percentage of SLPs and audiologists that vote in our election is probably less than three to 4%, but there are things that ASHA is doing and working for on our behalf as well as the states like the interstate compact and SLPA issues and caseload and workload. Again, these are all things that we would want to be supportive of.

Marisha: Yes. And that is a very interesting statistic, the three to 4%.

Lyndsey: I know, isn't it? And how few actually participate in the voting. And you know, the nice part is, is even if you don't know the individuals that are running, you can go, they have their profiles, they answer a series of questions, and you can really see, again, how they maybe would align with what you are thinking for the association. It's not like there's just one person in each spot, there are multiple candidates that you can go and do your research. And I do like that they have the window for voting open for quite a while so that you have time to do your research and make an educated vote for whomever you wish to support as the new ASHA Board of Directors.

Marisha: Yeah, they definitely make that pretty easy for us. Nice generous window and can do it all just from your inaudible-

Lyndsey: Electronically, right?

Marisha: Yeah.

Lyndsey: You can vote from the comfort of your home.

Marisha: In your pajamas, on the couch, which is how a lot of us are living these days.

Lyndsey: Yes, absolutely.

Marisha: Awesome. Wow. So many amazing ideas. I'm loving this. Is there any other ideas that you have on your list or have we exhausted it at this point?

Lyndsey: I think that covers everything, but I did want to share that there are some additional resources. Jeff Regan is the Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy, so you can go to ASHA's website, they have a whole advocacy page that you can read up on and they have resources. There is a website through ASHA, takeaction.asha.org, and you can learn about key issues at the state level, at the federal level. They even have a link to find elected officials that are in your area.
And then another thing is to be able to donate to the ASHA PAC, which is the Political Action Committee, and they're a bipartisan group. They support members of Congress from both sides, to support the different issues that are facing speech-language pathologists and audiologists. So just some resources and some information there. And of course, just putting yourself out there. So even if it's just reaching out to your state association or sending a quick email and saying, "How do I get involved? I'm not really sure what the first steps are or if there are any opportunities, can you share with me?" I know that when we get emails, we're happy to share what opportunities there are out there to encourage individuals to get involved.

Marisha: Yeah, that's perfect. And I shared this in the last podcast, but I was super... Because I participated in the ASHA Advocacy Day, and it was so incredibly simple. Like they have all of these templates ready to go and you choose which issues are important to you and you can make any adjustments, but they just automatically send it off to the people that it needs to go to. So I was super impressed with that and I think that's something that took... It took like maybe two minutes, and that's something that all of us can set aside two minutes to advocate for something. Especially if it's an issue that we're not so happy about, that we think about crosstalk-

Lyndsey: Yeah, exactly.

Marisha: By taking those two minutes, that can have... Like if they suddenly get thousands of these, then they're going to pay attention to that.

Lyndsey: Right. It can have a lasting effect on our profession by taking those two minutes to reach out to those legislators.

Marisha: Yeah. I think that was a good lesson for me that it doesn't have... I mean, it's amazing if we're able to dedicate that time and really dive into some of these positions and like I'm making my list. It's like I'm always revisiting my goals. It's like, "Oh, I've jotted down notes for myself if I definitely wanted to go do this and this." So I appreciate that.
But I think, if you're not quite there yet, there are so many simple things that we can do to start working towards that, and it doesn't have to be a huge inaudible.

Lyndsey: Right. And I had a friend come up to me at the last ASHA Convention in Orlando, and said, "I'm at that point where I think I want to get more involved. What could I do?" I said, "Well, we're having a SIG 16 meeting, why don't you come?" And she was like, "Oh, okay." And she came and afterwards she said, "I am so happy that I came because now I want to do more." And I think that sometimes it just takes getting out a little bit out of your comfort zone and even if it's just attending a meeting at convention or just attending the member forum, something small that doesn't take an effort on your part, other than attending. Because you might just see something or hear something that makes you want to do something a little bit different.

Marisha: Yeah. I think that's such a great idea. That's a way to check in with yourself in like what fires you up. Like what during that meeting, got you really excited? And I think that in and of itself can give us that little extra push and burst of energy to start navigating this. And it is out of our comfort zone a little bit. It's something new. We don't necessarily know what to expect. We're putting ourselves out there. But I think... Yeah, I love that tip.
And then you don't even have to attend because sometimes it's hard for us to get to the ASHA Convention, but they have their virtual town halls and...

Lyndsey: Oh, absolutely. Which they had a second portion of their school town hall, which was fantastic. And they try to make all these town halls specific to our issues, what we're facing right then and there. I think that, again, the more feedback that you provide to ASHA, the more that they can work to meet our needs. And they do have a section on their website and I believe it's called InTouch, where you can write your concerns or your messages and it goes directly to the ASHA Board of Directors.

Marisha: That's a good tip. And I bet they have... Because there's so much going on that I think most of us aren't aware of that, so if we do write in those concerns, they can tell us what they're doing towards it or share how to get involved with it. And I think we'd be pleasantly surprised to see what we find.

Lyndsey: I agree.

Marisha: Okay. Awesome. Any last tips or just anything else that you wanted to share?

Lyndsey: No, I think that covers it all. I think just encouraging everybody to at least be a member of their state association, because that is one way to support. Even if you aren't directly involved, just being a member provides a lot of support to the association.

Marisha: Yeah. I think just that financial element can make a big difference. Okay, so let's do just like a quick rapid fire because crosstalk-

Lyndsey: Oh, boy!

Marisha: I will put all of the different options that you mentioned in the show notes for the podcast, so if anyone is interested in learning more about like the LDP program or any of the different like ASHA PAC and all of those different things that we mentioned, those will all be linked so you can explore more. But let's see how many things we can think of that we could do in five minutes or less. Like just some quick action things that we could do just as we're wrapping up this episode.

Lyndsey: Okay. So, five minutes or less, you can send an email to your state association asking how you can get involved. You can follow or like the ASHA Advocacy page on Facebook. You can find a post that resonates with you and share it. You can email a legislator, regarding any key issues with the templates that ASHA provides. If you have concerns, you can complete an InTouch form that connects to the ASHA Board of Directors. Let's see, what else? Those are all pretty quick things.

Marisha: You can donate to the ASHA PAC.

Lyndsey: You can donate to the ASHA PAC. You can just visit the ASHA Take Action website and learn some more about what the issues are in your state and at the federal level. I think you'd be surprised to see some of the issues, and again, and just seeing if any of that really resonates with you. You can go and vote for the board of directors so that we increase that three to 4% number. What else? I think that covers really a lot that doesn't complete you to anything for a length of time.

Marisha: You can sign up for a SIG too. That wouldn't take very long.

Lyndsey: inaudible you can sign up for a SIG.

Marisha: I'm looking through the notes and running through the list in my head too. We came up with... You did most of the work there, you did all the work essentially, but yeah, there're so many little things that we could do and then of course there are bigger commitments that we can take. But if an SLP who's listening hasn't been involved at all and it's really scary to even think about doing those things, those little simple tasks will let you dip your toes in the water, see how it feels.
And then I think it's a good opportunity to figure out what interests us. I loved your ideas for the next steps, like attending a meeting or reaching out to the state association or just doing like a simple volunteering. If you help with conference or the convention, it could be just like a couple of hours that you commit. But I think those are nice next steps to figure out what makes sense in terms of the longer term. So it's totally doable. We got this.

Lyndsey: Absolutely.

Marisha: And I think it's really empowering to know that there are things that we can actually... Because it can feel like really overwhelming. Like on the Facebook groups, we hear all these crazy stories about caseloads and like all the different issues that come up. And it's easy to just put our hands up and just feel like there's nothing we can do. This is just how it's always going to be. But there are people out there getting us closer towards making progress in these areas, and I think we can do our part to get closer to that.

Lyndsey: Yeah. And even like you said, it might feel overwhelming or daunting, and we feel like, "Oh, I can't do that." But even if it's just supporting those that do and even just providing ideas to those that are in those positions to help facilitate change. If you do know that or you... Get in touch with your state board and you just let them know some of the issues. If you're a member, becoming a member and just sharing, "Hey, these are my concerns. I don't have time to get involved, but I would love to provide feedback or review something." Because sometimes it's just we need people to review things and that's an easy way as well.
I think it's just, while you might not be the one that says, "I want to run for president," that's okay, but it's just how can you provide support and be a part of it. And I think that's the biggest thing is just being a part of it and being supportive of what the associations are doing to support and advance our professions.

Marisha: Ooh, yeah. And so when you mentioned offering support, it made me think of like, I don't know about you, but as an SLP or just in my business, when I get a note from someone who... Just a note of appreciation, I feel like that gives me even more fire to keep doing all of the things. So if you just wanted to send a note to your state board members or ASHA or whoever, I feel like that could indirectly have a big impact too. Because if they're feeling appreciated, I'm sure they'll work hard no matter what. But I feel like it just gives a little bit of extra fire and motivation and momentum to keep working on these things.

Lyndsey: You're right, it does. It does. Because sometimes we don't know whether or not how people perceive the job that we're doing. And I say job but it's a volunteer, but it's a job. And I think that we all go into it trying to make sure that we're doing the best for our professions, our state associations. And so I think knowing that someone appreciates what you've done, is very helpful and very appreciated. Because sometimes we feel like that goes sight unseen.
And sometimes you don't even realize that some of your closest friends are actually members of their respective state associations, because many of us have friends and colleagues across state lines and you don't even realize that some of them are actually part of their state boards. And so just sharing information with them also helps them to enact and change for what they're doing as well.

Marisha: That's amazing. Well, thank you so much for all of these amazing resources. I really appreciated you sharing your story and your insight, and this was just an amazing list of things that we can do to step up for our students and advocate for them. Because almost every SLP that I talk to, if I asked them, why do they do what they do, it's always about the students. And this is a way to build a legacy and make sure that students in the future are continuing to receive the best possible services.
I think it's super powerful. I'm definitely feeling inspired and empowered. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us, and...

Lyndsey: Thank you for having me.

Marisha: I definitely appreciate you and all of the amazing things that you've already accomplished, and I can't wait when you become ASHA president and do all crosstalk-

Lyndsey: I don't know about that. We'll see what the future holds in store, right? You never know.

Marisha: Yeah. That would be amazing. That would be so fun. Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you, and we'll see you next time.

Lyndsey: Sounds good.

 

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Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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