Multiculturalism & Cultural Competence for Speech Language Pathologists

The phenomenon of multiculturalism reflects a discussion about how to understand and respond to varying perspectives related to cultural diversity based on nationality, ethnic and religious differences. The term “multicultural” is often used as a descriptive term to characterize the fact of diversity in a society. In multicultural communities, individuals celebrate, retain, and share their unique cultural ways of life, languages, and traditions.

To be more culturally aware of individuals and clients, their communication styles, and cultural heritage, speech language pathologists can seek to learn about various cultures to maximize active participation and progress in providing therapy for their clients.

It is critical to emphasize the importance of cultural understanding and appreciation. One’s cultural heritage is the legacy of physical tangible artifacts and intangible attributes of various individuals within society. It may include works of art, monuments, oral traditions, performing arts, or cultural festivals.

On the other hand, culture is the customs, traditions, and way of life for a shared group of people. Culture can be known as an art form and an expression of someone’s identity, shared through communication, music, dance, artwork, pictures, photography, paintings, poetry, books, etc.

Through embracing multiculturalism, society is enriched by respecting, preserving, and incorporating cultural diversity. The persistence of culture is what makes each individual client unique and speech language pathologists may utilize a client’s interests into weekly speech/language therapy sessions.

ASHA states that “Cultural and linguistic competence is as important to the successful provision of services as are scientific, technical, and clinical knowledge, and skills.” Speech pathology services must be respectful and responsive to the needs of clients. This includes treating each client individualistically. Each client has different wants and needs. It is critical that speech/language pathologists consider a clients’ desired outcomes and tailor sessions with their interests and functional needs in mind.

Some personal reflection questions to ask yourself as a speech/language pathologist include:

How do you feel about working with individuals or groups that are different from me?

What stereotypes, biases, and fears do I hold of other groups?

How are the expectations that I hold of diverse individuals/groups different from those of people in my own racial/ethnic/cultural group?

How much time and effort am I willing to put into learning about diverse people?

Do you include the clients and their families as partners in developing speech/language therapy goals?

Analyze these questions to improve speech therapy services for diverse clients. Always remember that providing culturally responsive speech/language services is an ongoing process. It is truly a journey of continual learning about children, adolescents, and families and providing optimal and effective evidence- based assessment and therapy services.