“Other People’s” Music

I recently finished reading Lisa Delpit’s, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. If you work in education, or have any interest in education reform, I strongly recommend that you read this book. If you are from a white, middle-class, mainstream American background (like me), it will probably make you feel uncomfortable at times…but you will walk away with valuable insight into how cultural differences affect children of color in our education system.

The book pushed me to reflect on my own experiences with culture. As a white, middle class American, I’m admittedly hard pressed to come up with a time when my own cultural background placed me at a serious disadvantage. But surely as a second langauge learner, I’ve experienced this…or have I? Sure, I occasionally encountered cultural misunderstandings and communication breakdowns along the path to becoming bilingual. But to be honest, even my study abroad program was designed around the needs of foreign (typically American) students.

Upon further reflection, I realized that my only experience with true cultural conflict (where I experienced a distinct disadvantage due to my backgorund) came from an ususual source….my experience with music.  I started singing in my church choir in 3rd grade. In high school I became further involved with my high school’s chorus and musical theater program. I took both voice and piano lessons throughout my teenager years. In college, I didn’t think I would have enough time for musical endeavors….but after a friend found out that I could sing, he invited me to check out a gospel choir of which he was a member.

I had never sung with a gospel choir before. To be honest, I wasn’t even that familiar with gospel music. At the first rehearsal, I tried to pretend I didn’t notice that I was one of the only white students in the group (I was still in my color blind mindset then). But after hearing that group sing….WOW….how do I sign up?!? Continue reading

Arrival and Thoughts on Language Preservation

I have to admit, I’m not much of a movie buff…but every now and then I see a movie that really leaves an impression. Arrival was definitely one of those movies. Anyone who has an interest in linguistics or language learning needs to see it, even if you aren’t a sci-fi fanatic. So if you haven’t seen it, go watch it, and then come back and read my blog. I’m not planning to discuss the plot of the movie in depth, but my commentary will likely contain some SPOILERS…you’ve been warned! Continue reading

Tips for Developing a Bilingual Home Program

So you are working with a bilingual client, but you don’t speak their home language. This could include…

An adult with limited English proficiency

An adult or child who is bilingual in English and another language

A child whose family speaks a language other than English at home

I’ve already shared some tips for working with interpreters, which can be a valuable tool for providing assessment and intervention bilingually. But what if your program doesn’t allow for the use of interpreters during therapy? This (unfortunately) is the case for many school-based clinicians. How can you ensure that both languages are addressed? The following tips will help you design a home program to support both languages, regardless of whether an interpreter is available during therapy sessions. Continue reading

Bilingual Parent Interview Form

I previously posted about the importance of getting to know bilingual students during the assessment process. I wanted to share an interview form that I developed for preschool speech and language evaluations. This is intended to supplement the typical case history (birth, medical, developmental, etc.) an SLP would gather for a pediatric evaluation, so it focuses specifically on family background, language exposure, and language use. I adapted some questions from the Bilingual Student Assessment Resource and from a presentation I attended by Dr. Catherine Crowley. This form could work for older children as well, but you would need to gather additional information about educational experiences the other language(s). Continue reading

Hope for Diversity in the Face of Anti-Immigration

In the past, I never considered myself a political person. Sure, I kept up with current events and went to the voting booth…but I never felt a need to really get involved. Over the last eight years of my career, my experience working with low income families (especially those from immigrant backgrounds) has significantly impacted my political views. Even so, I view myself as an open-minded person and I thrive on lively discussions and debate. In fact, I’ve been known to play “devil’s advocate” just for the fun of it…as a kid, my mom was convinced that I would become a lawyer someday.

Then the 2016 election happened. When I started this blog, I never intended to discuss politics on it…but the current political climate has made it harder than ever to be an advocate for cultural and linguistic diversity. Continue reading

Now What? IEP Development for Bilingual/ELL Students

So you’ve determined that a bilingual/ELL student is eligible for special education…now what? In my role as an evaluator, I’ve often struggled with this question when providing IEP input.

Unfortunately, IDEA provides limited guidance in this area, stating only that the IEP Team shall, “in the case of a child with limited English proficiency, consider the language needs of the child as such needs relate to the child’s IEP.” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but here are the questions I tend to ponder during IEP development:

Continue reading

SONRISA: Strategies for Home Carry-Over

If you’ve read my entry about CRECER, then you know how much I love acronyms. The name for this blog was actually inspired by another one of my acronym projects. I was working in an outpatient facility at the time. Each SLP had a their own office/therapy space with an adjacent observation room, so parents could either join the session or watch through a one-way mirror. It seemed like an ideal set-up, but I just wasn’t achieving the level of family involvement that I had hoped for. I wanted to ensure that parents understood what was happening during speech therapy; even though it looked like child’s play, there was some serious learning going on!

I had previously used the SMILE program from Bilinguistics as a birth-3 interventionist. I had also purchased a book called MERRILY, authored by Chicago-based SLP Paulette Y. Robinson. Both of these books encouraged home carry-over, had catchy acronyms, AND were available in Spanish…but they primarily focused on very young children. I needed something that could also apply to the needs of preschool and school-age children.

And so the SONRISA program was born! I adapted ideas from the previously mentioned books and created the this new acronym. The goal was to help parents identify the various strategies I was using to facilitate their child’s speech and language skills. At the end of each session, I would ask the parents  to reflect on the strategies they had observed and brainstorm ways to carry-over at home. Continue reading

Working Toward Equity: Legal and Ethical Considerations for Working with Bilingual/ELL Clients

Advocating for culturally/linguistically diverse (CLD) clients can feel like an uphill battle sometimes. There are numerous barriers–limited resources, competing priorities, misconceptions, and conflicting cultural views, etc.–that can make it difficult to provide the best possible care. Ideally, the institutions for which we work would always be on the same page when it comes to meeting this challenge. Unfortunately, SLPs sometimes find themselves needing to defend their position. Making an argument for evidence-based practice is of course my first line of defense. But when that fails to sway administrators, quoting the laws and ethics that govern our profession can go a long way.

I haven’t used this blog to venture into the realm of political commentary…yet…but I think it’s worth mentioning, given the current political climate, how important these legislative protections are. In a perfect world, everyone would do the right thing just because it is right…but here in the real world, we often rely on the law to ensure that our most vulnerable clients get the care they need and deserve.

Continue reading

CRECER: Strategies for Interactive Reading

As an SLP, I have an affinity for words and creating acronyms is always a fun (albeit nerdy) challenge. The inspiration for this one struck while I was completing a leadership program with the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation. The topic of the session was public speaking, and so we were tasked with preparing a short speech to present. Though I’m told most people fear public speaking nearly as much as they fear death, I’ve never had any qualms about talking in front of a group. In fact, my main challenge for this assignment was to stick within the timeline….I knew a handy acronym was just the thing to keep me on track!

Acronyms can be great memory devices…but they often don’t translate well. My larger project for the leadership program was focused on Hispanic literacy outreach, so I decided to create a bilingual acronym to describe dialogic reading strategies: CRECER (which means “grow” in Spanish). Continue reading

From Color Blindness, To Seeing in Color

I grew up color blind. No, not the type that can be diagnosed with a test like this:1292c23b266b61cda01cf54db6ff7a3f

I’m talking about color blind ideology, or the belief that we shouldn’t “see “racial or ethnic differences. It was popular then and still appeals to many now. We are all equal, we are all the same…right?

I attended elementary school in a suburban, middle class neighborhood on Long Island. Thinking back, it wasn’t extremely diverse, but I did have some exposure to children from other cultures. One year, there was a girl in my class whose family came from Pakistan. I didn’t know anything about Pakistan, but I did notice that she dressed differently…always wearing long sleeves and pants, even when it was hot outside. I wondered why she dressed that way, if she was ever uncomfortable…but it seemed rude to ask. I overheard her speaking an unfamiliar language with her parents…again I wondered, but didn’t ask. Continue reading