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My experiences with culturally and linguistically diverse groups started from a very early age. Spanish was my first language and continues to remain to be the prominent language that remains spoken in my family’s household. I was introduced to English when I entered preschool kindergarten, however, I still retained my skills to read, write, and speak fluently in Spanish. I taught Spanish Sunday school to elementary and junior high students at my local church for four years. This served as my first experience working with children in an informal school setting and where I first learned that I had the innate ability to teach and help students. I worked for AmeriCorps in Modesto, CA, where I was placed at a school as an after-school tutor for grades kindergarten to eighth grade. At Shiloh School, Hispanics made up the majority of the population, however, there were also some Caucasian students.

After a year at that site, I was offered employment as a full-time aide in a kindergarten class for the following school year. As an aside, I helped ruan with daily activities in the classroom, as well as in other classrooms when needed. While serving as an aide at the same time, I was also a pharmacy technician at a local pharmacy and continued that profession for a total of 8 years. During that time, not only did Ia serve as a translator for patients who only spoke Spanish, but I also interacted with people from many different cultural backgrounds such as Asian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, and African-American. These experiences allowed me to observe first-hand how cultures differ from one another and how to adapt to each culture’s communicative customs, such as eye contact, volume, and social greetings. Upon moving to Sacramento, I began participating in volunteer opportunities that involved working with people from different cultural backgrounds. I had the privilege chance to volunteering with Reading Partners for a year and a half where I worked one-on-one with students who read below two grade levels or more. In my time with Reading Partners, I tutored students from the following backgrounds: Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic.

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Concurrently, I assisted in a seventh and eighth grade special day class where I helped students, from Caucasian and Asian backgrounds, in the areas of math and science. Fortunately, my diverse employment and volunteer experiences have allowed me to gain the essential skills to be able to maneuver through situations that may occur with a client. During my time as a kindergarten classroom aide, one of the students happened to be bilingual, had unintelligible speech and, after being assessed, had the receptive and expressive language of a three-year-old. It became apparent within his first week of school that his mom was his preferred conversation partner. Because it was the student’s first school experience, the fear of being dropped off by people who couldn’t understand his verbal expressions caused him to distance himself from the class and the teacher. To help ease the transition, I introduced myself to the student and his mom. This helped the student not only get used to his new environment, but it allowed him to see his mom engaging in conversation with me, which resulted in a trusting relationship between myself and the student. When working with bilingual students, it is important to listen and observe, as well as involve their preferred communication partners to gain insight about the student and to optimize the opportunity for carryover.

I have several years of experience working with adolescents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since August 2017, I have been working as a Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant for Fortune School of Education, a charter school district that primarily serves African Americans from low-income backgrounds in Sacramento. Out of the 49 students that I serve, I work extensively with eight high-functioning students with ASD, whose goals primarily involve pragmatics. One thing that I’ve learned throughout this experience is although they exhibit the same disorder, it is important to get to know the individual and their specific characteristics. Adolescents with ASD may respond differently to activities and require different tools and techniques. For example, visual schedules are essential for some of my students to be able to have a productive session. Others prefer to choose what they’d like to do in the session from two activities that I have prepared beforehand. By doing so, the student has the mindset that they have control of the session and are not forced to do an unwanted task. There’s no predicting what kind of day the student is experiencing, but what remains constant is my patience and readiness to address any behavior the student may choose to express. During my volunteer service as a communication partner in the NeuroService Alliance (NSA) Communicating Through Art program and also at the Eskaton Lodge Gold River, I worked closely with those who have acquired receptive and expressive communication difficulties following a stroke.

I have learned how to efficiently communicate with these adults and discovered how they all develop different abilities. For instance, my communication partner in NSA suffered from expressive aphasia and although the client was aware that his expressions weren’t always verbalized correctly, he was grateful that I was compassionate and patient when we talked about his travels during his time in the military. Important details to remember when working with such patients is that they were likely capable of communicating with their community before their stroke and these acquired communicative difficulties can be both frustrating and confusing, not only for the patient but for their families and friends. Demonstrating humility to clients and their loved ones can help clients and their willingness to work towards meeting their own communication needs. When working with clients, as speech-language pathologists we need to remember that we must demonstrate empathy and patience to help our clients meet their speech and language needs. As a bilingual speech-language pathologist, my goal is to create spaces in which language is not a barrier, but a bridge to their curriculum and well-being. I know that I am meant to work in this field I am in a field that I’m meant to be in and the Communication Sciences and Disorders Master’s program at California State University, Sacramento program will provide me with the adequate foundation and practical experience necessary to be the best clinician I can be.

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