Home Speech-Language Pathology SLP and ESL Teacher Raise Awareness About Multilingual Needs and Benefits—Part 2

SLP and ESL Teacher Raise Awareness About Multilingual Needs and Benefits—Part 2

by Maryann MacDougall
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bilingual education illustration

bilingual education illustration

Editor’s note: This is part two of a series on SLP-ESL educator collaboration. Read the first part, “Partnering With ESL Teachers to Better Serve Multilingual Children,” which appeared in December 2015; and the third part, “Lessons Learned from Our SLP and ESL Teacher Collaboration—Part 3,” which appeared in September 2016. 

I’ve enjoyed a wonderful and busy school year since I wrote part one of this series in December 2015. In January, Lauren Harrison, my ESL colleague, and I continued raising awareness of bilingualism’s benefits through our “BiG” (Bilingualism is a Gift) campaign. 

Over the next few months, we presented on our collaborative efforts at three statewide education conferences and will present at the National Conference of WIDA—an organization devoted to those educating English-language learners—this October.

Each event elicited positive feedback and propelled the need for our work to continue. Our presentations also sparked passionate debates on what to do about misinformation being presented to families, especially those families who have children with special needs.

Meanwhile, in addition to presenting on our successful collaboration, we put our talk into practice: This past January, our school team—psychologist, special education teacher, ESL teacher and I—met for an hour with a family who’d been told by a well-respected center for autism to discontinue using their native language at home—just for a little while. The family received no research or clear reasoning to support this recommendation.

Fortunately, the family came to us with questions. We gave the family members multiple links to research and articles to support bilingualism, especially for children with autism. These parents asked us thoughtful and introspective questions. After our meeting, the family decided to continue speaking Korean at home and even wondered if they should start doing some of their treatment homework in Korean!

We told them to enjoy their child, set up short play dates, put the music on, bake together and dance. This boy goes to more than 32 hours a week of intervention sessions. Time for a break! His language skills are expanding in both languages, and his parents feel much more relaxed in embracing their native language and culture.

Maryann MacDougall, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist working at an early childhood center for the Watertown, Massachusetts, school district. She’s worked with young children for more than 30 years. maryann.macdougall@watertown.k12.ma.us

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