I have to thank the social media world for my introduction to Jackie Rodriguez! I asked her to write a guest post here today but this is just a sampling of the content and information she provides on her social media platform. Follow her on instagram and watch her stories for SO much good information on culture as it relates to clinicians.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15. It was designed to honor the many contributions of Hispanic/Latinx citizens to the fabric of American culture. The celebration began as Hispanic Heritage Week, which was sponsored by California U. S. Representative Edward Roybal in 1966. Its expansion to Hispanic Heritage Month was then sponsored by California U.S. Representative Esteban Torres in 1988. October 15 was chosen as a starting point for the month in order to honor the Independence Days of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Chile, Mexico and Belize also celebrate their Independence Days during the month of September.
In the year 2020, we have seen the American cultural climate make a drastic shift in the direction of cultural diversity and inclusion. ASHA mandates that speech-language pathologists provide culturally competent services to the children that we work with. However, many SLPs don’t feel like they have the tools to confidently and adequately serve children, like Latinx children, who are considered to be culturally and linguistically diverse. This gap in our field, as well as my own personal identity, have fueled my passion in serving culturally and linguistically diverse people as a speech-language pathologist. As the daughter of a Puerto Rican father and an African American mother, my cultural background has provided me with a unique perspective in the ways that our cultural identity influences the way that we communicate. I hope that these tips can be useful in helping you to incorporate Hispanic Heritage Month into your practice as a speech language pathologist.
Tips for incorporating Hispanic Heritage Month into Speech and Language Therapy
- Understand that Latinx People are not a Monolith: People who identify as Hispanic/Latino/Latinx are a complex group of people. Understanding the meaning behind these terms may help you to better understand how your students may identify. Many of your students may choose to identify by ethnicity. Hispanic is an ethnicity characterized by Spanish language. Hispanic refers to someone who is from a Spanish speaking country once colonized by Spain. Latino is an ethnicity characterized by geographic location. Latino refers to someone who is from a country in Latin America. Some Latino people, such as Haitians or Brazilians, speak languages other than Spanish. Latinx or Latíne is a variation of Latino that is used to include non-binary and gender non-conforming people who may not identify with the masculine “Latino” or the feminine “Latina.” It is important to consider that Latino/Latinx/Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race. Therefore, you can have Latinx students who may be White, Black (Afrolatinx), Indigenous, Asian, or multi racial. There is no one “Latinx” look. Many of your students may identify strongly with their nationality (e.g., Mexican, Puerto Rican, Colombian, etc). Within each country, there are many smaller ethnic groups, such as the Garífuna people of Honduras, the Mam people of Guatemala, or the Mapuche people of Chile. While some of your Latinx students may have strong cultural linguistic connections to Spanish (French, Creole or Portuguese), other Latinx students may have stronger connections to English. Some Latinx students may identify with the experience of immigration. Others may have come from a family where everyone was born in the US.
- Ask, Rather than Assume Identity: Because Latinx people are such a culturally complex group, it is important to not make assumptions about how the children that you work with identify. Depending on the age and verbal ability of your students, students may be able to express how they identify culturally. During Hispanic Heritage month I always ask my students or their parents to tell me what countries their families are from. I also ask what specific region of the country, as there are frequently regional differences in culture. I have found that incorporating literature and activities that are specific to the culture of my students has been extremely helpful in building a relationship with my students, increasing engagement in therapy, and creating meaningful connections between a student’s therapy goals and their unique culture. Unfortunately many of our Latinx students do not have their cultural values positively reaffirmed outside of their communities. Making a little extra effort to personalize your therapy to your student’s unique culture goes a long way.
- Center Your Latinx Student’s Experience Rather Than Your Own Experience: People often mean well when making comments like “I’ve visited your country on vacation.” It’s important to consider that the snapshot of the country that you experienced during your trip is likely not as rich as a child who has been immersed in the fullness of that country’s culture. Allow your student to teach you about his culture in the way that he sees it. Also, consider that your pleasant experience as a visitor on vacation in a country may not be the same as a child who sees that country as a home that they had to leave behind. Allow your students to share as much or as little as they want about their home/heritage country. For a variety of reasons, some Latinx people may have very complicated relationships with their heritage countries.
- Learn how to say your students’ names: I’m not saying that you have to learn how to perfectly trill an /r/. Just remember that names are important.
- Don’t forget about history: I have noticed that many times, we have a tendency to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month as a month of cultural celebrations. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations often look like celebrations with food and music. Latinx cultures are rich with amazing food and music, which should obviously be celebrated. However, it’s important to also consider that there is so much rich history to be shared about the contributions of Latinx people throughout history
- Latinx History is American History: In our quest to represent the heritage countries of our students, we often forget to highlight the important contributions that Latinx people have made to the United States. Although well intentioned, we often inadvertently “other-ize” our Latinx students by making it seem like Latinx people only contribute to society in Latin American countries. It’s important to remember that much of the Southwest and Florida were at one point in time part of Latin America. Puerto Rico has been a territory of the US since 1898. Some Latinx people, like my family, have been in the US for generations. Civil Rights leaders such as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Luis Moreno, Felipe Luciano, and Gloria Anzaldúa are basically unknown by American students. We currently have a Latina Supreme Court Justice. Latinx people have largely influenced many major US cities such as Puerto Ricans in New York and Chicago, Cubans in Miami, and Mexicans in Los Angeles. 13 Latinx people have traveled to space. Whether the children of immigrants or ancestors of people who came here generations ago, Latinx children need to know that people like them have made excellent cultural, economic, and legislative contributions to this country. Latinx children need to know that they can be the next person to change this country or the world for the better.
- Find inspiration from Latinx SLPs: Not everyone has access to a Latinx SLP, but luckily instagram makes things a little easier. Some of my favorite Latinx IG pages share awesome recommendations for activities and books to read with your Latinx students:
Latinx Book Ideas:
Jackie Rodriguez is speech-language pathologist originally from Augusta, Georgia. She currently works as a travel speech-language pathologist. Although she has worked in a variety of settings across the lifespan, she has spent an extensive amount of her career working as a bilingual diagnostician. Jackie’s bicultural background has made her passionate about making the field of speech-language pathology accessible to culturally and linguistically diverse people. Follow her on Instagram.
Special thanks for Jackie for taking the time to share so much with us today! If you have other ideas for incorporating Hispanic Heritage Month into your sessions, leave a comment below!
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