By David Bjorkgren, Special to the Hellenic News of America

Maria Papageorgiou’s work has come to the attention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, which appointed her to its board of ethics last spring for 2019-2022.

The ethics board looks at the quality of care, ethics and best practices in the area of speech language pathology. It studies problem cases from schools, clinics and hospitals around the U.S. to see what went wrong and how to fix it.  

Maria Papageorgiou

Special education staff should constantly be getting training or continuing education credits so they can stay abreast of new approaches. In some places with insufficient funding, that might not be happening, even though it’s required by law, Papageorgiou explains.  

Places that are understaffed might have one speech language pathologist trying to see kids in multiple schools so the kids don’t get the required therapy.  Hospitals may send an assistant to see a patient, instead of a doctor.

Quality of care is a top priority for Papageorgiou. “I am a firm believer of best practice policies and holding the highest standards and quality of care in hospital, clinics, and private practice, school, research and university settings.”

She contributes to that quality of care by making sure future teachers and staff are well trained.

She works with the George Washington, Loyola, and Towson Universities and the University of Maryland Medical Center externship programs in addition to supervising clinical fellows and certified speech language pathologists. “Mentoring graduate school clinicians and supervising clinical fellows is a true love of mine,” she says. “What SLP’s do is amazing and I want everyone to know it.” she says.  

She also supports higher pay for teachers. “Teachers need to be valued more and paid much more for their significant contribution to a child’s life. That is sadly overlooked but something I am advocating for.”

Places with inadequate staff are probably dealing with inadequate funding as well so for the past two years, Papageorgiou has participated in government policy and legislative issues on Capitol Hill as a member of the Kennedy Krieger School legislative group for special education issues. Her group lobbies for adequate special education funding and tackles issues like the appropriate use of restraint and isolation for aggressive or maladaptive students.

The political environment has been “somewhat challenging” but they have made progress with some of the U.S. Senators. They are working to stop two proposals, one to cut a federally funded program that provides financial assistance for training, recruiting and hiring highly qualified teachers and principals; another cutting Medicaid reimbursements to specialized programs for disabled students at private education centers.

“People were hearing us, but we have to keep at it, letting them know we need this.”