Dear friends, I am thrilled to introduce you to Katherine Schryver-Stahly, MA, CCC-SLP who is guest posting on Trilingual Mama today to talk to us about the growing field of bilingual speech pathology. I thoroughly enjoyed the very informative article that Katherine put together for us and am especially excited about the resources she provides at the end. Enjoy!
Bilingual speech-language pathology – a growing field
As more people raise their children either bilingually or multilingually, the field of bilingual speech-language pathology continues to grow. It is not a new part of our field and there has always been a need for this specialization, but, historically, it has been difficult to find speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who speak another language. On top of that, bilingual SLPs must not only know another language well enough to be truly fluent in it, but they must have also studied and learned about both typical and atypical speech and language development in that other language. Currently, only 4.5% of SLPs are bilingual SLPs but the need is much higher than that.
How does one become a bilingual SLP?
My path to a career in bilingual speech-language pathology was simple. I was in college looking for a major and so I first thought to start by figuring out what job I wanted when I was ready to graduate. After spending many hours in the college’s career center, I came across the idea of becoming an SLP. It sounded perfect! I really wanted to have a profession where I could help people, language and communication were areas of interest to me, and my family was always asking me to help them correct their accent and grammar in English so I felt as if I had been an SLP all my life. I grew up bilingually, with my American father speaking only English to me, and my Colombian mother speaking only Spanish to me. Because of that, I decided to go ahead and get a certificate in bilingual speech-language pathology. At the graduate school I attended, this required passing a proficiency examination in Spanish, completing three courses in bilingual speech-language pathology, and obtaining 150 clinical hours with bilingual patients, where I was supervised by a bilingual SLP. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (our national organization) has requirements for bilingual SLPs that include having native or near-native proficiency in their languages, as well as other skill sets. These apply whether or not an SLP has gone through an official university certificate program in bilingual speech-language pathology.
Why should you consult an SLP?
As a parent, if you think your child may be experiencing a speech or language delay, it is so important to have someone who speaks your language communicate with you about your concerns. But if you are raising your child bilingually, it is vitally important to have someone who knows what normal development looks like in bilingual kids and what delayed development looks like. My kids are three and one and we are raising them bilingually. If a monolingual SLP were to just evaluate only one of my three-year-old’s languages, it would not give a complete picture of who he is in his language development. It would give the SLP a snapshot, but assessing him in both of his languages would give you the whole movie!
How can you find a bilingual SLP?
If you feel your child needs to be evaluated by a bilingual SLP, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s website has categorized SLPs by area, age group served, and language spoken (From Akeanon to Yiddish). The site is called ASHA’s ProSearch and the URL is http://www.asha.org/findpro/. I also recommend that parents who are concerned about their bilingual child’s development consult ASHA’s website for the public, which is at http://www.asha.org/public/. Incidentally, there is an entire section in Spanish that includes helpful information about bilingualism.
This is our third guest post in a series of Advice from speech experts about raising bilingual children. If you missed the first two posts, you can read them here:
- Raising bilingual children: a speech pathologist’s advice
- Four things that will reassure you about raising bilingual children