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by Liliana Diaz
April 29, 2021
It is our responsibility as speech language pathologists to be able to effectively treat and work with people who have communication disorders regardless of the language they speak. There are several state and federal regulations that protect the rights of people who's native or first language is not English and it is our role as bilingual and/or monolingual speech language pathologists to be aware and understand the regulations in place as well as identify when an interpreter is needed and how to effectively assess and treat our clients with the use of an interpreter.
When I used to work in the early intervention setting, I worked with several families who's first language was not English. I was completely used to working with families who spoke Spanish as their first language, and as a bilingual (English/Spanish) speech language pathologist, I rarely needed to work with interpreters because I speak both English and Spanish fluently. However, I began to receive referrals to work with families who spoke Arabic. Finding a bilingual speech language pathologist in the area that I worked in who spoke Arabic was a challenge. Therefore, the only way to provide these families with speech services was to utilize a licensed interpreter during my sessions.
I learned several tips and other information as I began to work with an interpreter for the first time. For the very first time, I knew exactly how it felt like to be a monolingual SLP. I took this opportunity as a learning experience and reflect on how I can improve my family communication skills, cultural awareness and humility while working with these families. Continue reading to learn about some of the key points I took away while working with interpreters.
Choosing an Interpreter
Perhaps you own your own private practice and you will decide which contract company to hire. Or perhaps you work in a school district, and you cannot pick an interpreter because your school district selects the contract company to work with. Regardless of the situation you are in, you need to know what qualifications to look for in an interpreter. Also, keep in mind that the education and training requirements for interpreters may vary by state, however, the following qualifications should still remain the same.
Preparing Before the Session
When working with an interpreter, often I would arrange for a 15-30 minute discussion prior to the client's session in order to discuss the activities that were going to take place during the client's session. This allowed for the interpreter to review any specific terminology that might be needed for the session. It also allowed for my sessions to run smoothly because the interpreter knew exactly what the goal for the session was. Therefore, sessions did not need to be paused in order to answer any questions regarding clarity of the activity. In addition, we were able to review the family's expectations and cultural differences that would impact how I would interact with the family. For example, I learned that before entering the family's home, I had to take off my shoes and leave them in the hallway out of respect for the family's culture. Had I not known this, I could have possibly offended the family. Other tips I would suggest include:
Tips for During the Session
During my sessions, it was important that we discuss the SLP and interpreter roles with the family. We also discussed communication methods in case the family had any questions– it was important that the family knew that they can ask ME the questions instead of heavily relying on the interpreter only. One thing that I learned immediately was to address the family during interactions and not the interpreter. Often times, it was easy to fall into the trap of looking at the interpreter while discussing the client instead of looking at the family directly. Remember, the interpreter is YOUR voice and NOT your communication partner. Ensure that you direct all conversations with the family by making eye contact (as deemed culturally appropriate). Also be sure to:
Tips for After the Session
After each session, the interpreter and I would debrief for 15-30 minutes in order to make sure we both were on the same page in terms of the outcomes of the session. We also discussed any possible questions that the family had to ensure the questions were addressed properly. Lastly, we both would compare our observations of the session to ensure there was no miscommunication.
Hopefully these tips are useful in your practice. I highly recommend checking out ASHA's website for more detailed information about working with interpreters. You can learn more by clicking on this link "Collaborating with Interpreters, Transliterators, and Translators."
What other tips would you recommend to a SLP working with an interpreter? What has your experience been? I would love to know! Leave a comment down below!
October 09, 2022
Thank you for explaining how you should make sure to address the parent or family and not the interpreter during the session. My sister is going to be working with an interpreter for one of her clients. I’ll share this advice with her so she can make her clients feel more comfortable during the session. http://www.mayainterpreters.com
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by Liliana Diaz
January 12, 2023
Perhaps you recently got assigned to a new school or site that consists of a large bilingual and/or multilingual caseload, and perhaps you're not bilingual. Not speaking the student's language can be quite overwhelming and stressful (trust me, I've been there!). I know the feeling of not quite knowing where to start in intervention, or not knowing how to support your students. Well luckily, bilingual SLP, Ingrid Owens-Gonzalez has some important tips to share with all SLPs. Here are 3 things Monolingual SLPs can do to support bilingual populations today.
by Liliana Diaz
December 12, 2022
Finding good CEUs can be difficult especially when you want to find relevant courses that are affordable and applicable to your current job setting. If you are coming towards the end of your ASHA CEU cycle, or if you simply want to learn more about best practices when working with culturally and linguistically diverse students then keep reading because I have compiled a list of great CEU courses/providers that every bilingual (& monolingual) SLP should look into.
by Liliana Diaz
August 31, 2022
Welcome! I am Bilingual Speechie and this is my speech therapy blog! Here you will find bilingual (English & Spanish) resources & activities for speech language therapy! I am here to make the lives of all bilingual SLPs easier!
My name is Liliana Diaz-Vazquez and I obtained my bachelor’s degree in communication disorders in 2012 and my master’s degree in speech language pathology at Saint Xavier University in 2014.
I am a certified, licensed bilingual speech language pathologist (SLP) currently practicing in Chicago, Illinois. I have a passion with working with the bilingual population! I specialize in pediatrics with children ranging in ages from 1-18 years old and I predominantly serve bilingual and predominately Spanish-speaking students in general education programs, blended preschool programs and low-incidence programs.
I currently work full time in the public-school setting and part time in early intervention. I also run my own blog and create all sorts of bilingual resources/activities which I use with my own clients. I have extensive experience treating and evaluating a variety of disorders. I have worked with children with autism, Down syndrome, cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, apraxia, fluency disorders, language disorders and developmental delays.
My areas of expertise include augmentative/alternative communication (AAC), bilingual language development and the assessment and treatment of language delays/disorders in bilingual children.
I am a certified member of the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) since 2014, a member of the Illinois Speech and Hearing Association (ISHA) since 2014 and maintain licensure in the state of Illinois.
Aside from working with families and children, I am a part time foodie! Follow me on social media to check out all my food adventures within Chicago!