Communication disorders touch millions of lives, from hearing and speech sound disorders, balance or voice challenges, to swallowing disorders, stuttering, and language delays. As aspiring professionals, a significant portion of our time will be dedicated to advocacy—for ourselves and for our clients and their well-being. Our profession is shaped by state and federal laws and using our voices is crucial in driving the future of the profession. National NSSLHA seeks to nurture the next generation of audiologists and speech-language pathologists and create opportunities for us to learn about advocacy and practice being an advocate.
Hi . . . I’m Chanel Hudson, a first-year AuD student at the University at Buffalo and National NSSLHA’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). Advocacy has been a driving force in my life long before I fully understood its meaning. As the former advocacy chair for my undergraduate NSSLHA chapter at Hampton University, I led both in-person and virtual advocacy events. A highlight of my experience was a conference call I planned for students and Virginia Representative Bobby Scott’s office. We advocated for the Allied Workforce Diversity Act (Bill H.R.3320), one of National NSSLHA’s Student Advocacy Day issues for 2021 and 2022. The act authorizes federal support for accredited audiology and speech-language pathology programs to increase the recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation of students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. ASHA, National NSSLHA, and allied organizations’ efforts paid off when the Act was signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022.
In my role, I will work to ensure that your voices are heard; to keep you informed on policies that will impact students, the professions, and the people we will soon serve; and to provide you with tips to advocate on the local, state, and federal levels. Advocacy isn’t a solo act; it’s an ensemble performance, and here’s how all students studying communication sciences and disorders (CSD) can get involved and unleash your advocacy superpowers. Let’s turn up the volume on the issues important to us by spreading information on social media and joining forces with other organizations to make communication disorders a household conversation.
Why Advocacy Is Essential
Advocacy is not just about immediate change but creating a sustained impact over time. It involves addressing systemic issues and working towards lasting improvements in our field. Continuous advocacy efforts keep the spotlight on CSD issues. By consistently educating the public, policymakers, and stakeholders, advocates can foster a better understanding of the challenges faced by individuals with communication disorders and the professionals who serve them.
Engaging in advocacy throughout the year allows us to have a more significant impact on shaping policies to benefit their members and the broader CSD community. It also provides valuable experiences in leadership, communication, and grassroots organizing. These skills are not only beneficial for your advocacy efforts but also for your future careers in CSD.
Adopt a Year-Round Advocacy Mindset
Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. By making it a year-round commitment, you and your NSSLHA chapter can significantly contribute to positive changes in the CSD field and empower yourselves to be effective advocates for the long term.
Take Action on Student Advocacy Day
Student Advocacy Day is on Thursday, October 26, 2023! Together, we’ll be taking action in support of the IDEA Full Funding Act (H.R. 4519/S. 2217). This act seeks to have Congress increase their investments in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and create a 10-year path for Congress to cover 40% of the average per-pupil cost for educating students with disabilities. Check out this issue brief to learn more about this issue.
Our goal is to send 6,000 Take Action letters to Congress. Here’s what you can do to use your voice to support this Act:
1. Send letters to your members of Congress asking them to co-sponsor the IDEA Full Funding Act. You can send an easily customize and send a prepopulated letter to your members of Congress directly from the ASHA website.
2. Print these Take Action signs [PDF]. Share why you took action for the IDEA Full Funding Act and share a photo of yourself and your sign on your socials. Tag National NSSLHA and the members of Congress to whom your letters were sent.
3. Participate in the Social Media Chapter Challenge. The theme for October is advocacy! Create a TikTok and/or Reel and tag National NSSLHA.
- Why is advocacy important?
- What are you or your chapter doing on Student Advocacy Day?
- What are you telling your Member of Congress?
- What did you write on your sign?
Check out the National NSSLHA website for more information.
Be a Year-Round Advocate
Participating in Student Advocacy Day is just the start! Take steps to participate in advocacy efforts year-round:
1. Set Clear Goals. Develop clear and specific advocacy goals that you or your NSSLHA chapter want to achieve throughout the year. These goals should be actionable and measurable so you can track your progress. An example of an activity you might do is to distribute informative materials about speech, language, and hearing disorders to local schools and libraries. In doing so, you’re offering valuable support to educators, parents, and caregivers.
2. Stay Informed. Being well-informed is essential for crafting effective advocacy strategies, so stay abreast of developments in the CSD field, including policy changes, research findings, and emerging issues. Subscribe to newsletters and research alerts, you can receive updates directly in your inbox, making it easier to stay informed.
3. Host Advocacy Events. Organize a variety of advocacy events, such as awareness or letter-writing campaigns, webinars, and meetings with policymakers. Holding these activities throughout the year helps maintain advocacy momentum. Check out NSSLHA’s advocacy resources with great examples of what other chapters have successfully done.
4. Collaborate. Collaborative initiatives often yield more substantial results than individual ones, so consider collaborating with other student groups, state associations, or national organizations.
5. Track Progress. Regularly assess your chapter’s advocacy efforts and adjust your strategies as needed. Celebrate successes and learn from any setbacks to improve your advocacy approach. Remember to track your legislative advocacy efforts and include them in your Chapter Honors application!
Our journey together as advocates for CSD is just beginning. With determination, unity, and a shared commitment to change, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of those affected by these disorders. Together, we will turn advocacy into action, raising awareness, and building a brighter future for the CSD community.