How Not to Be a “Karen” SLP – Part 6

Image courtesy of dmitrisvetsikas1969 on

Systems of Oppression in Speech-Language Therapy – Your Therapy Materials…

As a reminder, if you’re an SLP, chances are you’re white, female, and come from at least a middle-class, mainstream culture background.

In light of those demographic facts, that a look at your ‘stash’. You know, your stash of go-to therapy materials – the cards, games, books, and digital materials like Boom Cards. I know you have a stash because I have one, too. Take a look at the images of the faces in those materials. How many of those faces are white? How many of the scenes depict middle-class, mainstream activities? How many of your materials depict racially or ethnically blended families? How many of the faces in your materials match the skin tone of the clients you support? How many of the activities shown require a car or money to do the activities shown?

If you’re from a mainstream culture background, you may not think about those things. But, your clients from CLD backgrounds do.

Representation matters.

People from CLD backgrounds need to see themselves in our materials because they’re not likely to see themselves in the face staring back at them in the therapy space. People from mainstream culture backgrounds needs to see people from CLD backgrounds doing the exact same things they do. Because representation matters. It’s how stereotypes don’t get formed.

Let’s talk about something else I see as a DEI issue. How many of you work with individuals with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities (ID)? Some people with moderate to severe ID may progress to an elementary school level of ability. Some people with moderate to severe ID may progress to a preschool level of ability. Other people with ID may have skills at the pre-linguistic level of development, where they are able to communicate with conventional and “home” gestures and adapted signs or single icons/light tech single message AT. And, other people with ID may be at the pre-intentional level of development where they are able to communicate with others through body language, body posturing and positioning, facial expressions, and vocalizations that are not always under voluntary control. As people with moderate to severe ID age into adolescence and young adulthood, they may continue to enjoy things we associate with young children. This could include TV shows or characters from them or favorite books or stories. It could include favorite toys or comfort objects. Because those are personal preferences and interests they should be supported. However, that does not mean teaching and therapy materials used with young children should be used with adolescents and young adults with moderate to severe ID. You may be teaching the same concepts generally taught in preschool. But, make sure you use materials that are age appropriate. Yes, that means you’ll spend a lot of time making materials that teach the same concepts but don’t include images of little kids doing little kids things.

Because representation matters. To everyone.

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