Language diversity in the United States is increasing rapidly. So, too, is the need for the services of bilingual communication professionals. Consequently, ASHA encourages its bilingual members to self-identify. This podcast covers details on how to do so and resources available to bilingual members. The discussion features two bilingual ASHA-certified members—Abdullah Jamos, AuD, CCC-A, and Melissa White, MA, CCC-SLP—and is moderated by Claudia Saad, MS, CCC-SLP, ASHA director of multicultural education.
Joseph Cerquone: Welcome to the American Speech Language Hearing Association’s podcast series highlighting issues in the field of human communication. Being a bilingual ASHA member is increasingly relevant. US Census Bureau data indicates why. The agency reports that at least 350 languages are being spoken across American homes, a tenfold increase over previous accounts.
While most of the US population still speaks only English at home or a handful of other languages, the scope of language diversity is widening greatly. In Los Angeles more than half of the population age five and older speaks a language other than English at home. In Miami it’s the same story. In New York and Houston the figure is 40%. In Boston, Seattle, Detroit the proportions are 33%, 32% and 12% respectively.
So how can ASHA bilingual audiologists and speech language pathologists make themselves known? Does ASHA offer resources that can facilitate their work? What are some of the challenges and rewards of being a bilingual healthcare provider?
Here with some answers are Claudia Saad with ASHA’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and two bilingual ASHA certified members; Dr. Abdullah Jamos an audiologist and professor at Missouri State University, Springfield Missouri, and Melissa White a speech language pathologist and clinical director at Bilingual Therapies in Atlanta Georgia. Welcome everyone.
Caudia, how many ASHA bilingual members are there?
Claudia Saad: Well Joe, our membership indicates that we have nearly 11,200 bilingual members. This represents approximately 6 percent of our total membership.
Joseph Cerquone: Six percent and is the number going up, going down, staying the same?
Claudia Saad: It’s staying the same. The increases that we are seeing are very small.
Joseph Cerquone: Well ASHA makes an effort to encourage, in fact strongly encourages bilingual members to identify themselves. Why is that the case?
Claudia Saad: Well we want our members to be able to provide the same quality of service in all of the languages that they speak so knowing which language they speak helps ASHA to know what type of resources need to be developed. We also want to be in a position to connect a client who speaks a language other than English with a certified bilingual speech language pathologist or audiologist when possible so being able to make that connection is really important. Having a linguistically diverse membership also adds to the collective cultural competence of our overall membership which is the goal that we’re trying to achieve.
Joseph Cerquone: Right, clearly the information such as what I was giving at the top indicates that society is changing, is becoming so quickly much more diverse. It certainly seems like the need is great.
Claudia Saad: Yes.
Joseph Cerquone: Well so how does someone self-identify as a bilingual provider?
Claudia Saad: Well identifying as a bilingual service provider is very easy. If you go to www.ASHA.org you click on the “my account” tab at the top and sign in as yourself. You’ll see a header that says manage your information and under that header if you click on edit your bilingual service provider qualifications its right there for you. All you have to do is indicate yes you are bilingual and it automatically gets entered into our overall system.
Joseph Cerquone: So it’s easy to do and I guess it’s pretty self-evident. There are no costs associated with identifying yourself as such?
Claudia Saad: No, no costs at all and it’s a very easy process.
Joseph Cerquone: Okay. Melissa White, you’ve self-identified as a bilingual provider. What has your experience been like having made that choice?
Melissa White: Well definitely in graduate school I went through a bilingual training program and so part of that was a lot of conversations about self-advocacy and understanding what your role was with the community at large so to me it made sense when I finally was at the point where I had my Cs to be able to self-identify with ASHA, the bilingual service provider. I felt like all of that hard work that I had put into graduate school was finally coming to fruition and I could see like hey here I am and I can do this and I’m ready to do this so it’s very exciting for me when I got that ASHA renewal letter and I saw that there was space for me to indicate that yes I was a bilingual service provider and that I could be able to provide services. I had the knowledge and the skills and competency to provide those services to the children that I was working with.
Joseph Cerquone: Well that’s great to hear. It sounds like it’s been a rewarding identifier for you. Would you say that’s been the case and can you give some examples of how that has helped you provide bilingual services?
Melissa White: It definitely has been rewarding. A lot of what I do through bilingual therapies is advocacy. I’m able to work with clinicians who come from a variety of programs and we talk a lot about what it is to be bilingual service providers and so I’m able to take what ASHA has defined as a bilingual service provider and then think about how that impact, the children that I’m working with in terms of assessment and intervention and just being able to go onto the ASHA website and go to the ASHA pro-find has been a valuable resource. I’m sitting in a community that’s extremely diverse and I have a family that comes in that speaks a language that is not one that I’m familiar with I’m able to go right to the ASHA pro-find and find resources for that family and for myself as well.
Joseph Cerquone: Great. Yah. Well it truly does sound like a great thing to do and that the rewards are there. Just wondering are there some challenges in providing bilingual services and if there are do you have any tips for your colleagues as to how to meet them?
Melissa White: So I think that I’ve said this before to people. You’re not always the most popular person on the boat sometimes when you’re the bilingual service provider because a lot of what we do takes a lot of work, questioning, looking at data in a different way, in a non-traditional way and sometimes that can shake what has already been established to work in that special education community and so but definitely ASHA provides so many great services through their website. They have the special interest group as well that looks at cultural and linguistic diversities. They have community page.
There’s multiple resources and when I graduated to now there’s just so many new research studies and data points that talk about how important it is that we think about bilingualism and second language acquisition in a way that is not something extra. It’s part of who that kid is so I think we’re just lucky to have all those resources available to us now through ASHA as well as other organizations.
Joseph Cerquone: Okay, well thank you, Melissa. Dr. Abdullah Jamos, you encourage your students to self-identify once they’re out in the professional world and practicing. Would you talk a bit about why you encourage them to do that?
Abdullah Jamos: Well thank you for having me. Well a big thing with all the changes in the population now, knowing another language is becoming a commodity. There is a high demand or the demand is actually increasing. So for professionals just basically marketing themselves as knowing other languages or being able to provide service in another language will open new doors for them depending on the area where they end up. So for example if an audiologist who has the ability to provide the service for a Hispanic population they will have a better chance to obtain a job and a better chance to work with those patients compared to others and especially in some areas and in some populations knowing English would be maybe limited so with that way they’re getting a better service.
Right now we do in the audiology program with the three years that we have currently, the three cohorts, we have only about three students who actually consider themselves as like they know other languages and two of them are actually international but one students who is a US citizen and he would identify as bilingual with fluent in Spanish so that would be a pretty good advantage for him.
Joseph Cerquone: I’m wondering if once some of your students have graduated and have become bilingual providers if you’ve heard back from them and what are they reporting?
Abdullah Jamos: Well actually honestly being here in at Missouri State and fairly new as a faculty member but we had one of the students who just graduated about a year ago and she was fluent with Mandarin and first of all she got pretty good experience through her externship because she was offered to do her externship at a place where they had a big Chinese population and afterwards she is still working. She is still providing the service so it can be a very good advantage for those students as they graduate.
Joseph Cerquone: Well I know you’ve had a very diverse and rich career that you were a bilingual provider. I believe it was in Jordan. I would ask that you just speak to that a bit. What was the experience like for you? What did you find? How helpful did you find it to be and what were some of the challenges?
Abdullah Jamos: Well actually it was a pretty good experience. After getting my degree from the US I went back home for about a year and I was fortunate to work with some patients because my first language is Arabic so I was able to work with those patients in that community. English is a common language as well as Arabic.
In Jordan a lot of people know the language but the other advantage was actually kind of on the opposite because as I was in Jordan I got to work with some of the American citizens who were over there and were staying there for a while and actually I’ve worked with a couple of US veterans who as they were going to their base in Qatar I think they had to get some screening as part of a contract with some of those health companies but it was great to be able to conduct or provide the service in English as well because of my English language going through the education here in the States so that was actually a very good opportunity there.
Joseph Cerquone: Dr. Jamos, I understand that there’s research going on at your university about bilingualism. Do you want to speak to that a bit?
Abdullah Jamos: Yes. One of the faculty members here is Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate. She’s interested in language and diverse populations. We were just running a survey between our two speech language pathologists trying to get some information. They did get about close to 108 responses from SLPs and almost about half of them identify themselves as they do know other languages. Mainly a big number of those speech language pathologists identified as they know Spanish, but different other languages were described as French or Haitian or Japanese, so that research is still in progress. They’re still at the stage of the data analysis but they seem to have a lot of interesting data that hopefully they’ll be able to share and publish for you soon.
Joseph Cerquone: Do you have a sense of how close it is to publication?
Abdullah Jamos: Hopefully they’re basically doing the analysis right now, in the middle of the analysis, so I believe their plans are to present it at the next ASHA convention.
Joseph Cerquone: I see. Very good well that’s interesting. We’ll certainly look for it. Thank you.
Joseph Cerquone: Claudia, could you give some examples of the resources that ASHA provides bilingual members?
Claudia Saad: Yes, Joe. We have many, many resources that are available on our website—www.ASHA.org. All you need to do is put bilingual resources in the search box and a whole bunch of links to the many resources that we have are available. We have information on the assessment and treatment of bilingual individuals. We have information on second language acquisition as well as many phonemic inventories in languages other than English so there are many resources available on our website.
Joseph Cerquone: Okay well that’s great. Obviously ASHA again first needs to know who is bilingual so they can better serve them so please tell listeners one more time how they can self-identify.
Claudia Saad: If you go to ASHA.org and at the top of the screen you’ll see a my account tab. If you sign in as yourself the header will pop up that says manage your information and if you click on the edit your bilingual service provider qualifications link it will take you right there. Very simple.
Joseph Cerquone: Well thank you very much, Claudia Saad, and thank you, Melissa White, and Dr. Abdullah Jamos for sharing your perspectives.