If you were an early intervention speech therapist, and you got a referral for a child who does not speak a language that you speak – what would you do?
@liselschwartz and I discussed the other day and I wanted to share some of our ideas. I see a lot of Spanish-speaking children, but I don’t get too many referrals for other languages. Even though I speak some Spanish, my sessions can be a little disjointed. Early intervention is about coaching and guiding parents so they can provide therapy services all week long when you aren’t there. If you can’t talk to them during your sessions how can you make this happen? Here are some ideas!
- Figure out how to get an interpreter in there. Our child-find program typically schedules an interpreter for at the least the first session, and then once a month following for non-English speaking families. If you don’t get an interpreter scheduled off the bat, ask your supervisor about what the protocol is for requesting one. When/if you get someone who can interpret for you, try to get some basic vocab words in THEIR language written down for your knowledge and use. For early intervention my top ten in no particular order are usually:
1. More (some therapists aren’t into this being a first word but it’s quick and easy so I’m sticking with it)
2. Give me/my turn
3. All done
8. Cookie – or cracker, or apple, or whatever the child eats a lot of
9. Milk – or water, or juice, or whatever the child drinks a lot of
- If you can’t get a list from someone who can interpret, trying Googling the words you want – if it’s the wrong word the family will likely know what you MEANT and will tell you the correct word (for example, I didn’t know the Spanish word for “marble” so I just called it “pelota” until a Mom told me “canica.”) If you put into Google “German for ball” it will give you several options, so I just pick the one that sounds closest and the families correct me if I picked the wrong concept. I also LOVE wordreference.com for colloquial definitions.
- Put those words to signs for the family. In our center we even make a little sign language book with a picture of the sign and the word below. I know each language has its own corresponding sign language – but this is hard enough without adding extra sign languages to the picture so I just stick with ASL.
And so on and so forth.
- Do what you can to provide services in their native language. This can hard for a number of reasons (the main being that YOU do not speak Twi or Cantonese or Hmong or whatever). But also sometimes families know that the child is going to be exposed to English in the school system, and so they just want you to speak English to the child. But the two year old should really keep being exposed to their native language so they can communicate with their family members when you aren’t there. This is why it’s vital to get the family playing and doing the therapy, while you coach.
- If caregiver knows someone who can read English, who isn’t there at the time of your sessions, see if you can write down ideas to have translated later. Sometimes Dad or cousin or sister reads English, and so I’ll write down my “ideas” for the week, and then they’ll have that person read later. If you can find something like “Handy Handouts” from SuperDuper (which is in both English and Spanish) that’s ever better – you want to provide resources as much in the native language as you can. As the languages get more “obscure,” the harder this becomes.
- Sometimes families will have a little English in the home, or siblings will speak English, so families will ask, “If the English word is easier to say, can I just model the English word?” (think “ball” instead of “pelota” or “shoe” instead of “zapato.”) I usually try to steer clear of this unless that really is their preferred word that they’d typically use (I see a lot of Spanglish so some families really do just say “apple” instead of “manzana.”) I typically recommend in this circumstance to model approximations of the native language word, rather than modeling the English.
- If there are older siblings in the home who speak English try getting them involved, they can be a huge help for you, and they always love teaching the “teacher” their language and words. :)
Any other ideas out there? What do you do with kiddos and parents who don’t share your language? What if you can’t get an interpreter, or the family resists an interpreter? Please share!
NP: Florence + the Machine – Blinding