Theresa Rodger: Sharing the Importance of SLP & Audiology with Decision Makers





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Published on Jan 24, 2013

Theresa Rodger, ASHA's vice president of government relations and public policy, explains the necessity for ASHA members to advocate for themselves and the professions.



Theresa Rodger:
"Decision makers and leaders need to know who we are and what it is that we do. Members of Congress as well as state legislators need to know how our services and the issues affecting our services impact their constituents. We are the best people to deliver that information. It is people like us, professionals like us, that have the information that they are looking for. They want to know the pros and cons of the pieces of legislation upon which they are voting, the things that they are making decisions about, and who better to provide the information than the professionals engaged in those services.

You know we need coverage for comprehensive audiology services. We need to ensure that speech-language pathologists and audiologists are included in any kind of school-based legislation promoting language and literacy. We need to make sure that members of Congress know that it's important to citizens in their district to get a hearing aid tax assistance credit, even though the dollar amount that's been proposed is a small portion of what the citizen is paying for a hearing aid. But they need to know that that's an important theme for their constituents.

ASHA members don't need to make a trip to Washington DC to advocate for issues on the federal or the state level. There are many opportunities to do that locally. Members of Congress are frequently in the districts holding town hall meetings, engaging in informal meetings with constituents. The ASHA staff has done an incredible job of packaging, in a brief form, information about timely issues, what's critical at that point on the hill. They're posted on the ASHA website. They're easy to access, and the ASHA staff is—they're happy to set up appointments for members of ASHA who are interested in doing that.

We've seen progress over the years in terms of staff members being well versed on our issues, and becoming familiar with the services that we provide, and knowing what a speech-language pathologist is and knowing what an audiologist does. And that's a positive step right there, just having laid that ground work. It makes it so much easier to talk to them about the issues and the impact that the issues do have on individuals receiving our services and on us in our work settings. E-mail messages are very important and very effective. ASHA's website has a fantastic advocacy page. There is a Take Action page where messages are written. An ASHA member simply has to sign in. The message is there, you review it, hit submit, and it goes to your U.S. Senator's as well as your U.S. Representative's office. And it's very rewarding to receive the acknowledgement from your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative acknowledging that they not only received your message, but how they feel on the issue, and that they will be following the topic. And that's great. That's what we want.

Both congressional members, as well as state legislators like to keep track of the frequency with which they're receiving communication about issues. The more messages they receive about an issue, that the more important it may be for the members of their district, and they certainly do pay attention to those numbers and it's always great to lay the ground work, to continue to build on information, to provide them with updates, to give them the information they need to make the best informed decision both on the hill or at the state level."


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