Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
ASHA believes that speech language pathologists make important contributions to ensure that all students receive quality and culturally competent services. In addition, speech therapists have the training to be able to distinguish speech and language disorders from “something else”. That something else might include cultural and linguistic differences, socio-economic factors, lack of adequate prior instruction, and also the process of acquiring the dialect of English that is used in schools. The language of the classroom is very different from the language of the home, even if English is spoken in both settings. With this expertise and our background, we can provide more accurate and appropriate identification of student needs. In order to support our expertise, we would want to build on our cultural competence.
In this profession it is important to be aware of the cultural and linguistic diversity that you may see in patients coming for speech therapy. Working with cultural and linguistically diverse students doesn’t mean working with an individual who speaks a different language, however, this can individual can differ in a variety of different aspects. These can include personal space, nonverbal gestures, eye contact, and even ‘slang.’ It is also crucial to explain the importance of the goals for your patient to provide them with a better understanding.
During my graduate experience I had the opportunity to go Kingston, Jamaica for a medical mission trip with Molloy College. It is important to raise awareness of the Jamaican culture that I observed through the town, the schools and the people that I met. During my trip to Jamaica, we provided free hearing and speech and language screenings to both adults and children at schools and wellness centers. Many individuals did not understand the importance of a hearing or speech screening, so it was crucial that we provided them with the education behind our screenings.
When assessing children and adults from a different culture, something that is important to keep in mind is the varying language and dialectal differences that you may observe. During my trip I had to keep in mind the dialectical differences between English and Jamaican Creole or the Patois. It is important to note, dialectal differences can include differences in syntax, semantics, and phonology! Here are some examples:
- Chuck (truck)
- Dawta (daughter)
- A-go (I am going to go)
- Mi run (I run)
- Plate dem (Plates)
- Fi yu bottle (Your bottle)
- Mi did guh (I went)
- Ouse (House)
- Dem (them)
- Mi nuh have nun (I don’t have any)
Taylor Howell MS, CF-SLP, TSSLD