I’m finishing up my tenth year as a bilingual speech pathologist. I feel so incredibly lucky to be a speech path and to be able to speak Spanish, too. However, I’ve discovered the ups and the downs of being “rare” and “popular.” Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of my job:
- PRO: Huge Employment Demand — There is an overwhelming need for bilingual speech paths. In fact, most of these positions go empty, year after year. Congrats, you can easily find a full-time or part-time positions in most urban and suburban districts!
- CON: Overworked — Once a school district lands a bilingual SLP, there is so much demand that there is a tendency to overwork the bilingual SLP. When I was in Chicago Public Schools I had a caseload of over 70, I supervised a para with 30, and then I was often sent to other schools to perform bilingual evaluations. When I left that position, it was partially because I felt burnt out. I have found other districts that take care of their bilingual SLPs, so be choosy about where you work.
- PRO: Irreplaceable — At every job I’ve had, it felt like I could have worked in until my retirement. If you are a bilingual SLP, unless you totally screw it up, you probably will have your job for your entire work experience. That is, if you want it.
- CON: Split Between Schools — Being bilingual means that there’s a good chance you will be split between schools because there are many schools that don’t have the need for a bilingual person full-time. Working a multiple schools can keep your work week interesting and different, but sometimes it’s nice to have just one place to go to and set up an office or desk area. Personally I’ve always liked being at one school more than being split because you only have to manage the culture, the staff, and the caseload of one school.
- PRO: Opportunity to Make a Huge Difference — I believe that working in the students’ native language directly is better than working with a monolingual SLP with a translator. Because most students don’t get the chance to work with a bilingual SLP, you can make a huge difference in the lives of the kids and their families.
- CON: Need to Interpret or Translate — Getting pulled to translate can be a disadvantage because it takes you away from students and paperwork. Translating is a specific skill that requires training. It’s a skill that I’ve gotten better at over the years because I do get pulled to translate in the front office or during IEP meetings. I remember the time many years ago I had to translate “self-harming” — that was tough and disturbing! I just wanted to be doing speech therapy!
- PRO: Kids and Families are Awesome — Bilingual kids are families are just the best! Families are appreciative and grateful to receive speech therapy at school and the kids are smart, fun, and generally follow the rules. I love this population!
- CON: Parent Education About IEP Advocacy and Their Rights — I’ve worked with families that didn’t fully understand their rights and so I’ve felt compelled to educate parents about what they need to do if they are in disagreement with the findings of the school. I enjoy helping parents learn and navigate the system so that their children get what they need to be successful.
- PRO: Being Special — Being a bilingual SLP means that you can do things that other staff members cannot. You are in a category of your own: understanding bilingual language development and being a clinician. It’s an incredible position to be in!
- CON: No One Knows What You Do — If most people don’t understand what SLPs do, imagine the plight of the bilingual SLP! I’ve been asked if I’m teaching my students English. No, I’m teaching them how to communicate in the language they feel most comfortable.
I hope that my “Pros and Cons” have given you something to think about and I’d love to hear what you think and if you agree or disagree. Thanks again for reading! 🙂