Perspectives on Being a Bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist from Clinicians at Various Points in their Careers

  • April 1, 2011
  • Nathan Cornish

Greetings! The field of speech-language pathology, and our practice as bilingual clinicians, is always changing. Along with these outside changes, our own experiences make us evolve as individuals. It’s good to assess our own roles and views of the profession periodically, and in doing so it seems valuable to hear the experiences of others. We can be inspired by the energy and earnestness of newer clinicians, and we can benefit from the perspective and experience of more seasoned practitioners.

This month’s ¡Adelante! article is a compilation of reflections about the profession from three clinicians at different points in their careers. Sara Bayona is a recent graduate who is busily growing as a CF. Raquel Martínez has participated in a number of working environments in the few years since she completed her CFY. Karen Miranda has broad experience both as a speech-language pathologist and a speech aide. Each of them shares important insights into life as a bilingual clinician in this unique article. Please feel free to share your own in the comment section!

BayonaSara Bayona, M.S., CF-SLP
Houston Independent School District, Houston, TX

Sara works at the elementary school level in Houston Independent School District. She graduated in May 2010 from Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. This is her first year working as a bilingual speech-language pathologist.

I was very honored when Nate Cornish asked me to contribute to the ¡Adelante! blog. I began my professional career as a bilingual speech-language pathologist eight months ago and it has been a non-stop ride ever since.

There are a few things I have learned since the previous stage in my career (graduate school). First, I have learned that confidence in your knowledge and skills is just as valuable as your actual knowledge and skills. You have to come prepared to explain, defend, and support your results from an evaluation or therapy sessions. When you present this information with confidence, your colleagues and your student’s parents will trust your professional opinion. You need to believe that you did learn valuable information in graduate school and be ready to share that with the world! Second, I have learned that one of your greatest tools will be networking with other clinicians in your school district. I suggest branching out and making friends with as many clinicians as you can at your first district meeting. The advice, suggestions, and tips from other professionals going through the same experiences as me has gotten me through this first school year. You will have an endless supply of therapy ideas for every holiday, season, or animal that is the theme of the week, support from someone who understands how it feels to spend 30 minutes with a three year-old that will only say one word, and encouragement when you think you cannot take on one more report. Finally, I have learned you cannot worry about being the perfect clinician your first year out of school. You will make mistakes. It is easier if you accept it from the start. The best advice I received before starting my job was, “control what you can control and for the rest just do the best that you can”.

Before the beginning of the school year, I asked some experienced therapists what to expect. The overall answer was to be prepared to be overwhelmed. They were correct, but if you have your time management skills in check then you will be just fine. I wish I had known the amount of time that would be spent away from the students. I expected to see students from 8 to 3 and then be on my way. There will be an incredible amount of paperwork coming your way, but like I mentioned, time management skills is the key.

In conclusion, I have learned many new things throughout my clinical fellowship year. There are a few things I wish I had known before hand, but it is all part of the learning process. The best part of this stage in my career is the joy you experience from finally putting years of studying theory into practice. The excitement of trying the therapy technique you read about and seeing results that impact a child’s communication and education. You might not be the perfect clinician, but if you find support from other professionals, have confidence in your skills, and manage your time then I promise you will make it through this exciting yet challenging time in your career.

MartinezRaquel Martínez, M.A., CCC-SLP
Austin Independent School District, Austin, TX

Raquel received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin, and her Master’s degree at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. She currently practices as a bilingual speech-language pathologist in Austin through Bilingual Therapies.

I’ve been an official member of the Bilingual Therapies team since August of 2009. Since 2009 so much has happened! I started out in San Antonio as a CFY, and then I moved onto South Padre Island to work in a Pediatric Private Practice setting and am now in Austin working as a school-based clinician.

Being a bilingual clinician has been a blessing— I enjoy the perks of endless traveling opportunities. I’d like to think that one of the best things about this profession is the diversity and the energy! I love, love, LOVE the diversity the profession has to offer. The profession itself is continuously evolving, which beautifully fits my “student for life” mantra. I don’t think we ever stop learning- evolving into better clinicians with every year that comes. In these last two years I’ve found that the key is to remain open. If I could go back, as a CFY I’d tell myself two things: 1) “It’s okay if you don’t get it right the first time, change WILL always be there, it’s a constant.” 2) It’s not about having all the answers; it’s putting theory into practice.

For me, it’s about changing lives one individual at a time!

MirandaKaren Miranda, M.S., CCC-SLP
Prince George’s County School District, Maryland

Karen received her M.S. in Disorders of Communication from California State University Northridge and her B.A. in Communicative Disorder from California State University Long Beach. She currently works through Bilingual Therapies as a Diagnostician for the Dual Language Assessment Team in Prince George’s County Public Schools, Maryland.

I began in the field of Speech – Language Pathology as a “Student Evaluation Technician”, which was a fancy title for a speech aide in the school system, at the ripe ol’ age of eighteen. Unaware of what I was getting into, I soon realized I enjoyed helping monolingual SLPs work with their Spanish-speaking students in providing adequate therapy sessions. I decided to major in that area and as a result of working in the field while I went to school, I was privy to a few things my fellow soon-to-be SLP classmates would encounter…in due time! I knew that the job was not glamorous or always fun, as we would be made to work in small hall closets that were once occupied by cleaning supplies. Nonetheless, I learned many good therapy ideas from different SLPs and I applied them once I became a full-fledged SLP.

Now that I am in a different stage of my career, where my focus is on evaluations, I have learned how to write better reports in order to present a clear and thorough representation of my client, in writing. I try to create a kind of verbal hologram, if you will, of my client so that the reader will have a clear representation of what occurred during testing. I have learned that you cannot rely solely on standardized data because communication skills are far more intricate than just being able to produce grammatically and syntactically correct sentences on command. And I have learned to keep up on current guidelines as they are ever-changing.

But perhaps one of the most important lessons I have learned throughout my years of experience, is that we do not just improve clients’ communication skills, but rather wear many hats in order to help improve clients’ lives. Being that we are bilingual SLPs and speak the same language as the families we work with, they look to us for assistance and guidance. We act as counselors (mostly, I just listen), as interpreters, as advocates, as liaisons between parents and school staff and as discipline coaches. Frankly, I enjoy it! So, I must admit that I find myself watching some Super Nanny episodes in order to learn tips I can pass along to parents on how to make discipline work for them.

All in all, if I had to do it over again, I would not hesitate to choose Speech – Language Pathology as my career path. I meet great people, from parents, to children, to educators and colleagues that teach me something new everyday. And, in light of the economic changes our nation is going through right now, the best thing about our profession, as I see it, is that it appears to be “recession proof.” As I am sure it is the case with everyone else, my caseload continues to grow and I am busier now than I ever was in the past, (at least it seems like it)! We have so many options available to us…we can choose to work in almost any part of the world, we can be creative in our practice, we can work with people of all ages and we can concentrate on different areas to work in… the opportunities are endless! That is really exciting to me and I can’t think of any other profession that has so many options!

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