What is a Communicative Disorders Assistant?

Hello readers! In this latest blog I thought I would share with you a little bit about my role as Communicative Disorders Assistant (CDA) with SpeakAble Speech & Language Services.

Most people have heard of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) but the role of CDA is not as well-known.

What is a CDA and what is their background?

CDAs are clinicians who work directly under an SLP or an Audiologist assisting them in the work that they do. This could be assisting in assessments or screenings or carrying out tasks given to them. A CDA must have an SLP or Audiologist supervising them as there are skills that they are not able to perform (assessments, reassessments, goal setting or discharging a client from service).

CDAs can have various backgrounds before completing their postgraduate CDA certificate. For example, I have a background in Linguistics and Psychology but other CDAs could have been teachers, educational assistants, early childhood intervention workers, or have worked in health services. Something that all CDAs must have in common before doing the postgraduate certificate is that they should either have an undergraduate degree or a three year post-secondary diploma with some coursework in linguistics, communication disorders, anatomy or physiology.

All CDA coursework is the same across programs at different colleges. The coursework consists of speech, language, hearing, augmentative and alternative communication and voice disorders with all of the courses focusing on all ages. During the program all students also take part in a four-month hands-on training at places where CDAs are employed with SLPs (hospitals, schools, private clinics, daycares, treatment centres).

What’s the difference between CDA and SLP?

CDAs provide therapy to target goals that have been decided by the SLP. These goals could be related to areas such as language, articulation, oral motor skills, social skills, augmentative and alternative communication and accent modification. Additionally CDAs can create tools, and show caregivers how to use them at home, school or other environments to develop their goals.  While SLPs can do these things, they can give these tasks to a CDA to complete and provide supervision for them.

CDAs are not qualified to assess, diagnose, set therapy goals or decide when it is appropriate to discharge a client, this is all done by the supervising SLP who has gone through this training in their Master’s program. Additionally, some clients with more complex speech and language issues may benefit more from services provided from an SLP.

Is an SLP better than a CDA?

Absolutely not! Both SLP and CDA (especially at SpeakAble) are equally qualified to provide intervention. Trust in your SLP. If they do suggest working with a CDA it is because they believe the client’s progress will be equally successful working with a CDA. CDAs may have equal experience to SLPs when it comes to providing direct therapy as they only provide intervention.

How do our SLPs and CDAs work together?

At SpeakAble we are fortunate to have both SLPs and CDAs as part of the team. After determining whether a client will be seen by one of our CDAs, the SLP will provide goals and relevant background information to the assigned CDA. The CDA will then work on these goals together with the family. During intervention, the CDAs take detailed notes on client progress and discuss them, as well as any new concerns, on a regular basis with the SLP. The SLP visits the client to supervise a visit roughly every ten sessions in order to update the goals or to determine whether therapy is still recommended. These joint visits may occur more regularly if the CDA feels that the goals are being accomplished at a faster rate, or if the parents have concerns that they wish to be discussed. It is also possible to have the SLP supervise the visit via video call if the child routinely does not attend or participate to their full potential when the SLP is present as well.

I hope you now understand the role and value of a CDA in your child’s care. If you would like to learn more or have any questions please visit the websites below, or send us an email at info@speakableslp.com

Sheela Sriharsha B.A. (Hons) Communicative Disorders Assistant


Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists


Communicative Disorders Assistant Association of Canada