This page focuses on caseload and workload issues specific to school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Many of the topics discussed in this page are also relevant for professionals in a variety of other settings.
Caseload refers to the number of students with individualized education programs, individualized family service plans, and 504 plans served by school-based SLPs and other professionals through direct and/or indirect service delivery options. Caseloads can also be quantified in terms of the number of intervention sessions in a given time frame. In some school districts, caseloads may also include students who receive intervention and other services within general education, through multi-tiered systems of support, such as response to intervention, designed to help prevent future difficulties with speech, language learning, and literacy.
Workload refers to all activities required and performed by school-based SLPs. Workload includes the time spent providing face-to-face direct services to students as well as the time spent performing other activities necessary to support students’ education programs, implement best practices for school speech-language services, and ensure compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA, 2004) and other mandates, such as additional school duties (see ASHA’s Practice Portal page on Documentation in Schools).
Workload and caseload are not interchangeable terms. Caseload is only one part of the picture. An SLP may need to allocate significant time for additional important and necessary workload activities whenever a student is added to a caseload for direct services. The total number of workload activities required and performed by school-based SLPs should be considered when establishing caseloads. ASHA recommends taking a workload analysis approach to setting caseloads to ensure that students receive the services they need to support their educational programs (ASHA, 2002) and make adequate progress (Endrew v. Douglas County School District RE-1, 2017).
ASHA does not recommend a specific caseload number for the following reasons:
For these reasons, ASHA encourages assignment of SLPs based on workload rather than caseload. See ASHA’s A Workload Analysis Approach for Establishing Speech-Language Caseload Standards in the School: Position Statement.
School-based SLPs provide services to students from at least five different groups:
According to the ASHA 2022 Schools Survey, the median monthly caseload size of ASHA-certified, school-based SLPs who were clinical service providers working full time was 48, with a median caseload range of 36–55, depending on U.S. region (ASHA, 2022).
Some states have established caseload guidelines for school SLPs, but others leave these determinations to local districts. Contact individual state departments of education for current information regarding caseload guidelines. See also ASHA’s State Caseload Chart [PDF].
While ASHA does not recommend a specific caseload number, large caseloads can have an extensive impact; the most notable areas are described below.
Students on smaller caseloads may make more measurable progress on functional communication measures than those on large caseloads (Schooling, 2003). These positive student outcomes may be less likely when SLPs have large caseloads and expanded responsibilities. For example, large caseloads may necessitate a shift from individual to group treatment and from smaller to larger group sizes, when such changes are not necessarily ideal for the student (Cirrin et al., 2003).
Student outcomes also depend on the SLP’s ability to provide services that integrate into the child’s curriculum. Large caseloads often limit the time available to become familiar with curriculum and standards (e.g., Common Core State Standards or other state standards) across all grade levels served. See Common Core State Standards Initiative (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010) and ASHA’s Common Core State Standards: A Resource for SLPs.
Large caseloads may also limit service delivery options. In fact, caseload size, rather than student characteristics, frequently influences recommendations about program intensity and/or model of service delivery (Brandel, 2020; Brandel & Loeb, 2011). Larger caseloads may cause SLPs to use service models that are not appropriate for some students and that may affect the SLP’s ability to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
Students may benefit from classroom-based models in which the SLP and the classroom teacher co-teach language lessons (e.g., Gillam et al., 2014). Large caseloads, however, limit the time available to the SLP for collaboration with teachers and other professionals (Green et al., 2019). See ASHA’s resources on interprofessional education/interprofessional practice (IPE/IPP).
Large caseloads influence an SLP’s ability to provide equitable services for linguistically diverse students. Multilingual students require multilingual assessment and/or intervention. Appropriate services may require collaboration with interpreters and translators, per IDEA legislation. See ASHA’s Practice Portal page on Bilingual Service Delivery and Collaborating With Interpreters, Transliterators, and Translators.
Large caseloads also have an impact on the following:
Additionally, large caseloads may impact an SLP’s ability to provide effective, evidence-based services; be able to make up missed sessions; and address all student goals. This can cause ethical concerns or potentially lead to litigation. For further information, see ASHA’s Code of Ethics and ASHA’s resource on missed speech-language sessions in schools.
ASHA’s Schools Surveys indicate that the average number of students on speech-language caseloads has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, whereas the roles and related responsibilities of the school-based SLP, which affect workload, have increased dramatically.
Factors that may lead to increased workloads include the following:
All workload activities required and performed by school-based SLPs must be taken into account when setting appropriate caseload standards. Given the expanding roles and responsibilities of school-based SLPs, it is important to consider a shift in thinking from caseload to workload. A workload approach is a better representation of the sum of SLP duties and responsibilities toward service provision than a caseload approach (ASHA, 2002). Such a shift is consistent with the intent of IDEA and best practices in school speech-language pathology to ensure the delivery of appropriate services to students with disabilities.
Use of a workload model is foundational to
A workload analysis may be helpful when advocating for a workload approach and establishing an appropriate caseload. This allows education agencies to consider the time available in the SLP’s schedule when determining the number of children to assign to each SLP.
Step 1: Document current roles and responsibilities.
SLPs may make a list of all roles, responsibilities, and activities necessary for providing services in their specific school settings and then sort these activities into the categories below. The roles and responsibilities of school-based SLPs can be organized into four categories, as follows:
Sample roles and responsibilities, organized by activity cluster, include the following.
Direct services to students
Indirect services that support students’ educational programs
Indirect activities that support students in the LRE and in the general education curriculum
Activities that support compliance with federal, state, and local mandates
Step 2: Analyze the current workload relative to the needs of students receiving services. Review current service delivery to ensure that models support adequate progress and address the changing needs of students. In this review,
Step 3: Determine if the workload is balanced.
When all time slots are filled but required activities or student services remain unscheduled, an imbalance exists between the SLP’s assigned workload and the amount of time available to fulfill those responsibilities.
To address this imbalance,
Step 4: Collaborate with SLPs, teachers, administrators, union representatives, parents, and other service providers to address workload issues.
The use of multiple advocacy strategies and partnerships is often necessary to influence workload and caseload issues within state and local education agencies. If the current service delivery is not sufficient to produce appropriate progress, suggest options to enhance services.
ASHA has developed a variety of resource materials that can strengthen local SLP advocacy efforts. Working for Change: A Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists in Schools [PDF] outlines several strategies for collaborating with teachers’ unions and local and state education agencies to improve working conditions.
School districts have implemented a variety of administrative solutions to assist SLPs in managing their existing workloads.
Scheduling is clearly noted on the IEP. SLPs ensure that scheduling decisions are individualized and that parents, caregivers, and educators understand the strategy or strategies selected. Although federal regulations allow for significant flexibility in designating frequency of service on the IEP, local and state jurisdictions may operate differently. It is helpful to write the amount of SLP services into the IEP as a quarterly, semester-based, or annual amount of time to allow for some flexibility.
SLPs choose service delivery models that afford the most flexible and efficient delivery of services, while ensuring FAPE, according to IDEA. See ASHA’s resource on school-based service delivery in speech-language pathology.
Appropriate and consistent identification of children who qualify for speech and language services will help prevent over-identification that unnecessarily expands caseload and workload. See ASHA’s resource on eligibility and dismissal in schools for information and guidance on eligibility, dismissal, adverse effect on educational performance, and cognitive referencing, as well as examples of eligibility guidelines from various states. Many states have also developed guidelines, so check with your state department of education.
An SLP, a group of SLPs, or state associations must consider many factors before launching an advocacy effort. SLPs can review ASHA’s School Advocacy Resources and Member Advocacy Guide before starting an advocacy effort, such as advocating for a workload model in their school district or state.
This list of resources is not exhaustive, and the inclusion of any specific resource does not imply endorsement from ASHA.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2002). A workload analysis approach for establishing speech-language caseload standards in the school [Position statement]. https://www.asha.org/policy/
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2022). 2022 Schools Survey: SLP caseload and workload characteristics. https://www.asha.org/siteassets/surveys/2022-schools-survey-slp-caseload.pdf [PDF]
Brandel, J. (2020). Speech-language pathology services in the schools: A follow-up 9 years later. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 51(4), 1037–1048. https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-19-00108
Brandel, J., & Loeb, D. F. (2011). Program intensity and service delivery models in the schools: SLP survey results. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 42(4), 461–490. https://doi.org/10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0019
Cirrin, F., Bird, A., Biehl, L., Disney, S., Estomin, E., Rudebusch, J., Schraeder, T., & Whitmire, K. (2003). Speech-language caseloads in the schools: A workload analysis approach to setting caseload standards. Seminars in Speech and Language, 24(3), 155–180. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2003-42823
Endrew v. Douglas County School District RE-1, 580 U.S. (2017). https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-827_0pm1.pdf [PDF]
Gillam, S. L., Olszewski, A., Fargo, J., & Gillam, R. B. (2014). Classroom-based narrative and vocabulary instruction: Results of an early-stage, nonrandomized comparison study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 45(3), 204–219. https://doi.org/10.1044/2014_LSHSS-13-0008
Green, L., Chance, P., & Stockholm, M. (2019). Implementation and perceptions of classroom-based service delivery: A survey of public school clinicians. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 50(4), 656–672. https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_LSHSS-18-0101
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (2004).
Katz, L. A., Maag, A., Fallon, K. A., Blenkarn, K., & Smith, M. K. (2010). What makes a caseload (un)manageable? School-based speech-language pathologists speak. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41(2), 139–151. https://doi.org/10.1044/0161-1461(2009/08-0090)
Marante, L., Hall-Mills, S., & Farquharson, K. (2023). School-based speech-language pathologists’ stress and burnout: A cross-sectional survey at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 54(2), 456–471. https://doi.org/10.1044/2022_LSHSS-22-00047
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards Initiative. https://www.corestandards.org/
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (1973).
Schooling, T. L. (2003). Lessons from the National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS). Seminars in Speech and Language, 24(3), 245–256. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2003-42827
Woltmann, J., & Camron, S. C. (2009). Use of workload analysis for caseload establishment in the recruitment and retention of school-based speech-language pathologists. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 20(3), 178–183. https://doi.org/10.1177/1044207309343427
Content for ASHA’s Practice Portal is developed and updated through a comprehensive process that includes multiple rounds of subject matter expert input and review. ASHA extends its gratitude to the following subject matter experts who were involved in the development of the Caseload and Workload page:
In addition, ASHA thanks the members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Caseload Size whose work was foundational to the development of this content. Members of the committee were co-chairs Frank Cirrin and Ann Bird, Larry Biehl, Sally Disney, Ellen Estomin, Judy Rudebusch, Trici Shraeder, and Kathleen Whitmire (ex officio). Alex Johnson, vice president for professional practices in speech-language pathology, provided guidance.
The recommended citation for this Practice Portal page is:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Caseload and workload [Practice portal]. https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/professional-issues/Caseload-and-Workload/