CDAAC often receives questions from members in the field as well as CDA employers. We have put together a few of the most frequently asked questions.
The duties that CDAs have are up to the discretion of their management team or supervisor. CDAAC does not comment on the management practices of individual organizations. What we can do is explain what duties CDAs have been trained to perform within the CDA post graduate program. We use the CDAAC scope of practice for both speech and audiology as well as the CASLPO Support Personnel position paper as resources to answer the following questions. Please contact us with any questions that we should add.
What is the difference between a Professional Association and a Regulatory Agency?
CASLPO has put together a document that explains the differences between a Professional Association and a Regulatory body.
Main Point: The Professional Association acts in the interest of and advocates for the professionals whereas the Regulatory Body acts in the interest of the public.
Is it within our scope to perform screenings?
Yes. Screenings are within the CDA Scope of Practice.
Part – C, Paragraph 1:
At the discretion of the supervising S-LP, CDAs may conduct various screens, using an established protocol. Screening protocol typically involve pass/refer results, without interpretation, CDAs identify and clients who receive a refer result and inform them of the need for a comprehensive speech, language or swallowing assessment by an S-LP.
Am I able to interpret a screening?
The nature of the screening tool itself should make the pass/refer (not “fail”) criteria clear. CDAs are permitted to indicate those results not interpret. One of the reasons one should avoid saying “fail” is because that message can be interpreted as analyzing the results and communicating a delay/disorder/impairment. Instead, when we say “refer”, it means that the screening tool has indicated that more in-depth testing is needed in order to determine if that delay/disorder/impairment exists. We suggest that CDAs avoid the word “pass”, as a screening tool cannot clearly rule out a delay/disorder/impairment either, and we don’t want clients to interpret that as “there’s nothing wrong”.
Ideally, the results of the screening should be:
Question- “Is follow-up with an AUD/SLP indicated?”
Answer – “Yes” or “No”
If the client were to then say, “So I passed?”, the answer could be “This is a screening that only looks at [baseline functioning of x, very broad communication skills, etc]. The purpose of the screening is to let us know if we need more in-depth information. The results of your screening indicate that I don’t need to suggest that you follow up with an SLP/AUD. Of course, if you would still like a full assessment of your hearing/communication skills, I can give you that information.”
Are CDAs allowed to make a referral to their organization after they perform a screening?
Yes, according to Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (SAC) and their SLPA Guidelines (Revised 2016) “If the communication health assistant conducts the screening, interpretation and communication of the screening results is limited to informing the individual whether or not he or she needs further assessment”.
Can I apply for an SLPA position?
Yes, in Ontario the term Speech Language Pathologist Assistant (SLPA) is used to describe support staff with a variety of educational backgrounds. Although there are programs that offer “SLPA” courses most employers that are advertising for a SLPA are open to applicants with varied education and experience. The title “CDA” (Communicative Disorders Assistant) refers to a specific post graduate program and is not interchangeable with other support staff titles. When employers are advertising for a CDA they are expecting that exact education.
Should I be writing final reports?
In many settings, CDAs are expected to contribute to the final report. CDAs work with the clients directly and including our data in reports helps to show a more complete picture of the client’s growth. Your signature should accompany any report that you add to.
According to the CDA Scope of Practice for Speech and Language (p.3, paragraph 1), we are able to create summaries without interpretation:
“The CDA may also write a summary of the intervention upon completion of treatment in the form of a formal, countersigned report.”
Can I use the title CDA without an SLP or Audiologist supervising?
No. Communicative Disorders Assistants are support staff and work within a team supervised and supported by a Speech Language Pathologist or Audiologist. The CDA Scope of Practice for both fields is based on the education that you have received within the CDA program. To work without a supervisor would be considered unethical.
Can I mentor/ supervise CDA placement students?
Yes. As always, a CDA is a member of a speech language or audiology team. In order to mentor a student the CDA must have the consent of their supervisor. According to CASLPO’s Use of Support Personnel Position Paper, CDAs may not supervise support personnel, other than the SLP approved supervision of support personnel in training (i.e. CDA students).
SLP /Aud must consent to students being involved in the provision of S-LP/Aud services.
The supervisory schedule within the students’ supervising team (CDA + SLP/Aud) must be adjusted to account for the cases in which the student is involved.
My employer calls all speech department support staff CDAs. How can I explain the difference for them?
CDAAC has written a position paper entitled “Formal Training” as well as Scope of Practice documents for CDAs working with either an SLP or Audiologist. These resources may be helpful in explaining the difference between CDAs and other support staff. It should be made clear that using a title one does not possess the education for is misleading to the public as well as unethical.
An organization has published a comment on their website stating that they 'feel strongly' that SLPs working alone with clients have better results than a service model including CDAs. How do I explain that to clients?
Inform your client that the facts are in direct contrast to the ‘feelings’ of this organization. According to the 2013 Ministry of Children and Youth Services final report entitled “Evaluation of Speech and Language Demonstration Sites” (Deloitte) p 34, graph 1 : “Children / students served by a combination of SLP and CDA had a 10% higher goal attainment at over 80%, versus children/students served by an SLP only.”
I am not a CDA. Can I join CDAAC?
Our membership is open only to graduates of the Communicative Disorders Assistant program. There are currently four colleges that offer this program in Ontario (Durham, Georgian, St. Lawrence College and Lambton College).
We are not a regulatory body and it is not required to be a member of CDAAC to work for SLPs or AUDs in Canada as support staff. We recognize that there are many different types of support staff with a variety of educational background and work experience.
We request that only professionals who have graduated from the programs listed above use the title CDA to avoid confusion for the public and employers. An alternate title as suggested by SAC is Communication Health Assistant.