The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) reports that 42 million Americans, or 15% of the total American population has some type of speech, voice or hearing impairment Approximately 28 million persons are reported to have a hearing impairment while 14 million have a speech or language impairment. These statistics are quite significant. If we had a room full of 100 persons, 15 of them would have a problem in the areas of hearing and/or speech-language!! ASHA reports that approximately 6 million of those 42 million individuals have diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds (Communication Facts Special Populations-Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations-2004 Edition) http://www.w3.org/members/research/reports/multicultural
This document includes some helpful information and references on particular incidence of hearing, speech, and language disabilities in various racial and ethnic groups.
The purpose of designating MAY as BETTER HEARING AND SPEECH MONTH is to make everyone aware of the importance of these two processes, which are fundamental for successful communication.
Ever since I have been in the profession (30 years), I remember how ASHA and all the agencies that are involved in the prevention, assessment and treatment of various hearing and speech as well communication disabilities suggest and plan a number of activities to make the public aware of the fact that MAY has been designated as BETTER HEARING AND SPEECH MONTH. Every year I sit with my colleagues brainstorming on how we, as professional SLPs or audiologists working within our various settings (schools, hospitals, clinics, universities), can best emphasize that MAY is indeed the designated month to make everyone aware of the importance of hearing and speech.
Activities such as offering free hearing and speech screenings at local shopping malls, larger distributions of various brochures produced by ASHA describing the role of the Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist in as many schools, hospitals, and physicians’ offices as possible are some of the frequent and preferred avenues to remind everyone of our professional missions. In addition, we seek the support of local television and radio stations to advertise this event through Public Service Announcements (PSAs), convince supermarket chains to print information sbout May is Better Hearing and Speech Month on their grocery bags, and run contests among school-age students for the best poster illustrating what hearing and speech mean to them. However, I continue to be disappointed about the few number of colleagues from related professions in education, as well as from other professions including business, law, and the public at large who truly understand the vital role we play in preventing, assessing and treating various hearing, speech, learning and communication disorders.
So, I urge everyone who reads this column to embark on a new and an everyday (instead of a once a year) mission to inform as many individuals as possible about our professions beginning May 1, 2005!
- If you see someone working in a noisy environment without adequate protection, take time to describe to the individual the damage that may be caused by such an environment.
- Explain to your students the impact of loud music on the hearing mechanism and encourage them to sit as far as possible from musical or any noisy public event. If the students are music players themselves, suggest they wear earplugs.
- Talk to your school principal if the sound of the bell is too loud. A few days ago I was conducting an assessment on a student when the bell rang. I thought the sound was going to pierce my tympanic membranes!!!
- Offeron-going presentations to your staff on the roles you play in your agency regarding the prevention, assessment and treatment of various speech and language disorders. Although our roles appear to be better understood in a hospital- type setting, many teachers and administrators still believe that we work with speech only (mainly/s/ and /r/). In addition, these professionals may not understand the connections between oral and written language and how we can make a difference in students’ learning of academic knowledge.
- Collaborate with teachers. Take time to visit classrooms to observe students who have been referred and use these observations as part of your assessment. Offer to work in a small group or whole group with the teacher. Your role in language and learning development will thus be better understood. You do not have to do collaborative work with every single teacher in your building though! One or two teachers are sufficient.
- Offer workshops for your school parent group and the school board a couple of times a year delineating your role and responsibilities.
- If you are bilingual; interpret for some of the parents who attend local school or board meetings or any other meetings. Voice the great advantages of bilingualism!!
- Participate and/ or present your research/work at conferences sponsored by related professions such as psychologists, special educators, occupational and physical therapists as well as medically related conferences.
- Volunteer once a month or every other month in your local library to read to children and conference with their parents and families about the importance of language and literacy.
Thus, May is Better Speech and Hearing Month should be a whole year endeavor and not limited to the fifth month of the calendar year!!
It is about time that everyone understands our vital role in developing language and communication.
Please be sure to read the June ¿Qué Tal? column:
Summer Carry-Over Activities for Your Students