Course Introduction

If you’re an ASHA member, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the Code of Ethics, the principles that outline our roles and establish our professional standards of practice and behavior. Maybe you studied it in grad school, maybe you’ve consulted it more recently to help clarify an uncomfortable situation in your workplace. It may seem like the Code of Ethics applies just to big, obvious issues—an SLP advertising a therapy as effective that clearly doesn’t work, or refusing to see clients from a particular religious background. But the Code applies to our everyday challenges as well. See below a few selected excerpts (emphasis ours):

  • Principles of Ethics I, Rule A: Individuals shall provide all clinical services and scientific activities competently.

  • Principles of Ethics I, Rule B: Individuals shall use every resource, including referral and/or interprofessional collaboration when appropriate, to ensure that quality service is provided.

  • Principles of Ethics I, Rule C: Individuals shall not discriminate in the delivery of professional services or in the conduct of research and scholarly activities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity/gender expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, disability, culture, language, or dialect.

  • Principles of Ethics I, Rule M: Individuals who hold the Certificate of Clinical Competence shall use independent and evidence-based clinical judgment, keeping paramount the best interests of those being served.

  • Principles of Ethics II, Rule D: Individuals shall enhance and refine their professional competence and expertise through engagement in lifelong learning applicable to their professional activities and skills.

  • Extrapolating a bit from these statements, we can conclude the following:

We have an ethical responsibility to educate ourselves on the best available evidence, so that we can competently provide services to individuals of diverse backgrounds.

Differences in home language, dialect, cultural or ethnic background, socioeconomic status and other variables among our students and clients often require different approaches to assessment and intervention. If, in ignorance or defiance of the evidence, we’re using inappropriate assessment methods with English Language Learners (ELLs), for example, that result in fewer children qualifying for services than should, we aren’t living up to the ideals we agree to every time we renew our CCCs. Sometimes, yeah, the evidence we need just doesn’t exist, and we have to use our best clinical judgment. But in other cases, research can give us clear guidance. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to know that evidence, without needing to undertake massive research projects every weekend.

Below, we’ve assembled a set of recent research reviews that discuss assessment and intervention issues unique to special populations, including individuals from low-SES backgrounds, dialect speakers, ELLs, and juvenile offenders. Some of these groups aren’t “protected classes,” as specified in the Code of Ethics and elsewhere, but we’d argue they deserve the same level of consideration. Read on with a eye toward your own practices—are there changes you could make that would result in more effective, more appropriate, more equitable, more ethical services for your students?

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2016). Code of Ethics [Ethics]. Available from

Learning Outcomes & Details

As a result of this course, participants will be able to:

  1. List and describe five rules of the ASHA Code of Ethics.

  2. Describe how Ethics 1, Rule C may be violated when a client’s culture isn’t considered within the context of standardized testing.

  3. Explain how test norms can vary per socioeconomic status, and what speech–language pathologists can do to account for this.

  4. Describe how speech–language pathologists may account for dialect and language differences in assessment and treatment of communication disorders.

Course Type: Text; Web or downloadable PDF

Time: This is an hour course.

ASHA CEUs: This course is offered for .1 ASHA CEUs (Intermediate level, Professional area)

Course Completion Requirements: Read the full course, then take a quiz at the end. Must pass with a score of 80% or better (two attempts allowed).

Questions? See our frequently asked questions.


Course edited and compiled by:

Meredith Harold, PhD, CCC-SLP is owner of The Informed SLP and faculty at Rockhurst University. Financial Disclosure— receives salary from The Informed SLP and Rockhurst University. Nonfinancial Disclosure— Vice President of Speech–Language Pathology for the Kansas Speech–Language–Hearing Association Board; Board member of the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association Committee on Clinical Research, Implementation Science, and Evidence-Based Practice.

Karen Evans, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech–language pathologist at Intermediate District 287, and employee of The Informed SLP. Financial Disclosure— receives salary from Intermediate District 287 and The Informed SLP. Nonfinancial Disclosure— None.

Full research and writing team bios can be found here. The Informed SLP’s researchers and writers are prohibited from having any financial or nonfinancial conflicts of interest related to the content they research and report on.

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This course is offered for .1 ASHA CEUs (Intermediate level, Professional area).