More than 21 percent of the U.S. population—or 60.3 million people—speak a language other than English at home, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, and those figures continue to rise. As a result, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in the United States are seeing increasing numbers of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) clients.
The large majority of SLPs practicing in the United States speak only one language, English, and almost all see clients who speak a language other than English or come from a culture that is different from their own, according to a research report published in Clinical Archives of Communication Disorders(CACD). Even bilingual SLPs often encounter students with different language or cultural backgrounds from their own when working in areas with culturally diverse populations.
The research published in CACD shows that most SLPs feel inadequately equipped to support the unique needs of clients that speak a language different from theirs. In many cases, SLPs feel inadequate because they have a limited understanding of the client’s culture and a limited understanding of the cognitive and language developmental norms of the client’s primary language. Other barriers include a lack of translators, a lack of appropriate SLP resources, and cultural differences in parenting styles and priorities.
SLPs who are working with bilingual students or linguistically diverse populations need appropriate SLP resources to help meet the needs of those students. The right resources can also improve SLPs’ confidence about their ability to help CLD clients, which is an important component for success. These four valuable resources are available online and can help SLPs meet the needs of their culturally diverse and linguistically diverse students.
ASHA offers a website full of rich information about the language milestones children should reach at each age, as well as detailed information about how to teach children to become bilingual.
For children: When working with CLD children, SLPs can use the information on this website to track their language progress. The site also offers a number of age-appropriate ideas that SLPs can use when working with children to help them develop language skills, such as role playing daily activities and singing songs.
For adults: SLPs can refer parents of CLD children to use the site as well, as it offers a wide range of ideas for home activities that will help children further language progress. The site also provides parents with tips for how to best help their children develop bilingualism, such as reading books to children in both languages.
The CDC’s website provides a number of free materials to help in tracking children’s developmental milestones.
For children: Professionals working with children can use the checklists, posters, and videos to track the children’s developmental progress. The site also offers recommendations for books and other resources that SLPs can use to help facilitate children’s development.
For adults: Parents can download the CDC’s Milestone Tracker mobile app to help them track their child’s developmental milestones from two months to five years. The app includes illustrated checklists, videos to show what each milestone should look like, tips for encouraging a child’s development, and information about what to do if you’re concerned about your child’s development.
The Help Me Grow site, a project of the State of Minnesota, provides a number of resources for families to understand developmental milestones and learn whether they should have any concerns. The goal is to help families detect any potential needs as early as possible so they can seek additional support.
For children: When working with CLD children, SLP professionals can rely on the print, video and online resources available on the Help Me Grow site to measure children’s progress towards developmental milestones and to conduct screenings and evaluations.
For adults: Many of the resources on the Help Me Grow site are available in multiple languages, so SLPs can refer parents of their clients to the site. There, parents can learn in their own language about childhood development milestones and how to help their children. The site also offers outreach materials and presentations that SLPs can use with adults.
Produced by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, 1, 2, 3 Grow! is a public television program about early childhood development for families of young children in eight languages and cultures.
For children: Professionals working with children with cultural and linguistic diversity can watch these programs to become more familiar with their clients’ cultures and languages, helping them to be better prepared to serve these children and their families.
For adults: Parents of CLD children can benefit by watching the program, which is hosted by physicians and parents of young children. These hosts represent the languages and cultures of their audiences: English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Portuguese, and Vietnamese. There is also a show in English focused on African-American concerns.
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