Grants Totaling $1.6 Million Support Students in Treating Speech-Language Impairment among Bilingual Children

Two professors in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at The University of Texas at Austin have received grants totaling $1.6 million to improve treatment of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) children with communication disorders, such as speech-language-hearing disabilities.

The grants, both from the Office of Special Education in the U.S. Department of Education, provide financial support to speech-language pathology doctoral and master's students interested in serving school-aged children from CLD populations.

The Academic Clinical Research Training (ACRT) project is a four-year, $800,000 grant funding stipends, tuition and fees for six speech-language pathology doctoral students and one postdoctoral student. Students are being trained in three areas: research methods, personnel preparation and professional practice. The goal of the ACRT project is to recruit and support doctoral students who will expand the body of research on how best to deliver speech-language pathology treatment to schoolchildren from CLD populations. The project also will help deliver pre-professional education to master's and bachelor's students, and help train professionals already in the field--through in-service training at the local, state and national levels--on effective speech-language treatment to children from CLD populations.

"The 2008 Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that the demand for speech-language pathologists with expertise treating CLD children will increase 11 percent each year resulting in 30,000 new jobs by 2016," said Professor Elizabeth Pena who directs the project. "If each of our seven ACRT scholars works with a pool of 25 graduate students each year of their careers we estimate that about 9,350 speech-language pathologists with CLD expertise will enter the job market to meet increasing demands."

The Improving Treatment Practices (ITP) project is a four-year, $800,000 grant that will increase the number of speech-language pathologists with the knowledge and skills to deliver treatment to children from CLD populations. The project, which is being spearheaded by Associate Professor Lisa Bedore, is providing funding stipends, tuition and fees for 18 speech-language pathology master's students taking bilingual specialization courses and participating in off-campus clinical practica in schools that serve culturally and linguistically diverse children with communication disorders.

"With an increasingly culturally diverse population it is vitally important for speech-language pathologists to understand the difference between a true communication disorder and the natural process through which children acquire a second language," said Bedore. "Many bilingual children are misdiagnosed as having communication disorders and may not get the type of educational support that best matches their needs."

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 55 percent of school-based speech-language pathologists have English Language Learning, or bilingual, children on their caseload, however, only 7.9 percent of those students receive the bilingual speech-language pathology treatment they need because fewer than 2 percent of speech-language pathologists identify themselves as bilingual and only 8 percent have specialized training in CLD or bilingualism.

The University of Texas at Austin is the national leader in training bilingual specialists in communication sciences and disorders. The program has graduated 125 master's level bilingual speech language pathologists. It has graduated more doctoral level scholars with a research focus on bilingualism and communication impairments than any program in the nation.