The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has reported that the prevalence of communication disorders is approximately 10% of the population. This means that more than 31 million people in the U.S. are affected by speech, language, and/or hearing disorders which negatively impact their social, academic, and occupational communication skills. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (2013) estimates that the number of speech-language pathologists will grow by 23.4 percent over the next 10 years, with approximately 28,000 new jobs in speech-language pathology by 2020.
There is a significant need for more speech-language pathologists, and in particular, greater numbers of professionals with specialized training to serve culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S. speak a language other than English. Therefore, more than 6 million people would benefit from the services of a bilingual speech-language pathologist to help them meet the communication demands in the social, academic, and occupational contexts of their daily lives. In the state of Illinois, 22.2% of individuals speak a language other than English at home (U.S. Census, 2010). According the American Community Survey (ACS), the ten most commonly spoken languages after English in Illinois are Spanish (58.60%), Polish (7.54%), Tagalog (2.94), Chinese (2.25%), German (1.89%), Korean (1.89%), Arabic (1.75%), Urdu (1.61%), Russian (1.61%), and Italian (1.56%).
To help meet the demand for professionals who can provide optimal services to diverse populations, the graduate program in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Elmhurst College will begin offering a Multicultural/Multilingual (M&M) Emphasis in the fall of 2015. Such an emphasis is urgently needed in the greater Chicago area and many areas of Illinois where speech-language pathologists and audiologists serve individuals from numerous language backgrounds. This emphasis is designed for students with oral proficiency in more than one language who wish to pursue specialized academic, research, and clinical experiences to meet the unique needs of culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
In accordance with ASHA’s practice policy (please see http://www.asha.org/policy/KS2004-00215/), the emphasis will foster students’ language proficiency, cultural competence, knowledge of typical and atypical speech and language development in diverse speakers, and their ability to provide appropriate assessment and intervention to diverse populations through a combination of coursework, clinical experience, and if students choose, an international travel experience.
We are excited about this effort to better serve our communities in the greater Chicago area and beyond.