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BILINGUAL CO-WORKERS

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(traditional clothes) rather than a skirt and blouse, a child will give a better response, as they can more easily identify with the mummy in the picture.

When assessing a bilingual child in English, the presence of a co-worker is essential because sometimes the child’s vocabulary in naming objects/verbs/food might be stronger in the mother tongue than in English. For example, a child may know the vocabulary in their mother tongue but not in English. A co- worker can strengthen the accuracy of assessments, because otherwise an SLT might think the child does not know the vocabulary.

I also assess in the mother tongue and English along with the SLT and doctors in specialist diagnostic teams and am involved in explaining reports to the parents during home visits and feedback assessment results to parents along with the SLT specialist and consultant.

It is particularly important to explain an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, as there is not enough easily available information for ethnic groups. I find this challenging, because it is extremely difficult to explain autism in mother tongue to a parent who sees this medical condition as a mental disability. In order to reassure parents that it is a physical problem, I have to encourage them to recognise how their child behaves when they communicate, play, or in handling relationships, in order for them to identify with the outcome of reports and assessments.

Language barriers make it much harder to explain the situation or ask questions and to follow though the treatment. Parents may

choose not seek treatment for their child because of those barriers. SLTs may feel it is difficult to convey information to their clients/parents when a translator or co-worker is not available.

It is therefore vital to have someone who can speak the parents’ language, so they can voice their anxiety and ask the appropriate questions. Many parents may not understand the medical terms used by SLTs or other professionals to describe their child’s difficulties, so it is important to have a co- worker or translator to give this information to them.

Kim Davidson-Kelly: My client group of hearing-impaired children includes a number of families where English is not the mother tongue.

The early trauma experienced by the diagnosis of deafness can often be further complicated by specific cultural attitudes towards deafness, many of which would be unfamiliar to a therapist from a different cultural background to the child’s family.

Having to wear an amplification device; the level of loudness of voice; the respectful demeanour expected by elders; the variety of language modes required – these areas were all new to me, while my expectation of adult- child interaction and the emphasis on play activities astonished some of the families I worked with.

Usha was at once a familiar figure to these families. She came from a similar ethnic background, easily identified by her dress, her demeanour, her understanding of different

cultural family dynamics and, most importantly, her ability to speak and understand the language. Usha’s experience working in speech and language therapy meant she could interpret my therapy ideas in a user-friendly manner, without altering their specific aims.

Families that had initial difficulties in relating to me were quickly put at ease by Usha’s presence. Activities modelled by both Usha and myself were more confidently carried out.

Usha also monitored the appropriateness of equipment. She was able to give me examples of the household items that could be modified for therapy use. For example, samosa cutters were excellent for matching games.

Usha’s talent for producing equipment was a bonus and here again she was able to introduce an appropriate ethnic flavour to help families feel comfortable with the materials used and less reluctant to try to make their own.

The therapist, co-worker and family relationship is a three-way process, where each learns and teaches. I found it possible to maximise my therapy input with Usha’s support and feel that my success would have been severely compromised without her involvement.

Usha Marawaha Bilingual co-worker Kim Davidson-Kelly SLT clinical lead for hearing impairment Co-author Fiona Whyte SLT clinical lead for SEN. NHS Greater Glasgow Email: fiona.whyte@yorkhill.scot.nhs.uk

Realising the vision

10-12 May 2006 • University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Northern Ireland Book your place now for the speech and language therapy conference of 2006

Realising the Vision will explore new and challenging ways of working within a rapidly changing and increasingly diverse health and social care system.

Delegates will be able to choose from a packed programme of over 80 oral and 80 poster presentations. The conference will share a vision of the models of care and practice in an evolving NHS and explore, in various specialties and traditions, the clinical, management and research issues currently at the forefront of the profession.

This will impact on the scope for future change and developments likely to affect everyday practice. The RCSLT will also launch Communicating Quality 3 on 12 May. For further information, contact the University of Ulster’s Continuing Professional Development Unit.Tel: 028 9036 6680 or email: cpdu@ulster.ac.uk or visit the conference website via the RCSLT homepage (www.rcslt.org)

Over 300 delegates already confirmed: book your place before it’s too late

www.rcslt.org

April 2006 bulletin

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