Build an Inclusive Speech Room Try these tips to help you overcome cultural or linguistic hurdles to treatment. School Matters
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School Matters  |   October 01, 2015
Build an Inclusive Speech Room
Author Notes
  • W. Antonio Le Baron, MS, CCC-SLP, is a member of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Team for Tacoma (Washington) Public Schools and consultant on cultural and linguistic diversity. He is a member of ASHA’s School Issues Advisory Board and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 16, School-Based Issues. walebaron@gmail.com
    W. Antonio Le Baron, MS, CCC-SLP, is a member of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Team for Tacoma (Washington) Public Schools and consultant on cultural and linguistic diversity. He is a member of ASHA’s School Issues Advisory Board and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity; and 16, School-Based Issues. walebaron@gmail.com×
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / School Matters
School Matters   |   October 01, 2015
Build an Inclusive Speech Room
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.20102015.34
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.20102015.34
A glance at the caseload of any school-based speech-language pathologist reflects the growing cultural and linguistic diversity of our population. This diversity makes it important to understand when assessments and treatments contain cultural or linguistic barriers for students—and how to avoid them.
The first step to improving cultural and linguistic competence involves awareness of the effects of your own culture, especially on communication and service delivery. Examine how your culture might affect your approach to assessment and intervention. An explicit understanding of one’s own attitudes, beliefs and prejudices helps prevent mistakes, including missed opportunities, stemming from cultural biases. Take ASHA’s self-assessment to identify possible areas for self-growth.

A strong sense of your personal attitudes, beliefs and prejudices helps prevent cultural biases.

Find inclusive materials
Next, review your students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Examine what you already know about their languages or cultures. Local churches, libraries or civic groups offer excellent resources, but you may not need to look further than the teachers lounge. Step out of the speech room and get to know your co-workers. This simple interaction might yield excellent information regarding different religions, cultures and languages. Networking with the intent to learn about the cultures represented in the school promotes collaboration and encourages an environment that celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity.
With a grasp on your own culture and knowledge of your students’ cultural backgrounds, find ways to minimize the effects of cultural bias on children’s educational and social development. For instance, if you are providing articulation treatment for a student who also has an accent, provide treatment that takes that accent into consideration. Also, you might want to combine students with similar linguistic backgrounds into small groups. Conversely, putting together students from different backgrounds may also provide excellent pragmatic language learning opportunities within a safe and appropriate context. However students are grouped, it is critical to create a respectful and welcoming learning environment.
Consider using visuals that reflect your school’s diversity, but be careful to avoid stereotypical images. An excellent source for visuals can be your student’s own family. Consider asking family members to bring pictures of the family doing activities in their own environment. This could be an excellent way to discuss what a family is and explore how families may be similar and different from one another.
Seek storytelling and literacy materials reflecting multicultural or universal themes. One way to do this is to find fables from various cultures that still teach the targeted lesson. Changing names of characters in a book or activity to better reflect the student’s culture also works. Support the student’s first language, if other than English, by learning some key words in his or her native language and using them in sessions.

Seek out materials reflecting multicultural or universal themes when you incorporate storytelling and literacy into sessions.

Handle the holidays
Holidays present another challenge. Plan ahead to include culturally and linguistically appropriate holiday materials. Don’t wait until the last minute to introduce holiday-related topics to students. Instead, present them a few sessions prior to the actual event or day. This timing gives students language to discuss the holiday when it occurs. Consider selecting related historical figures or narratives representing a general value or ideal such as honesty, character, honor, love or kindness.
Appropriately incorporating religious holidays or traditions into treatment in a public school setting—especially one with a culturally diverse population—is a delicate matter. A general rule of thumb is to keep it academic and goal-related, not devotional. Teach multiple points of view on a particular holiday. Read a short story about the holiday, for example. Then ask students to compare how they celebrate versus how the characters celebrate. If one student doesn’t celebrate, consider having her describe what she knows about the holiday or how she thinks others celebrate.
Take a neutral approach and avoid promoting one religious view or tradition over another. Teach students about a variety of traditions, emphasizing the value of diversity and the importance of respect for other cultures and differences. Also, check with your district’s policies on holiday materials.
Combining these steps helps create a respectful and welcoming learning environment. But building cultural awareness takes a lifetime of learning and growth. Despite our best intentions and efforts, our cultural biases may occasionally lead us astray. Don’t lose heart! Try to learn and help others learn with you. Ultimately, our goal as SLPs is to expand our students’ communication skills, knowledge, interests and respect, while supporting their IEP goals.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
October 2015
Volume 20, Issue 10