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Oklahoma elementary school speech-language pathologists' knowledge of African American English

Stowers, Brittanie
In this study, I interviewed Oklahoma SLPs to determine whether they receive enough training/education to prepare them for clients who speak nonstandard dialects such as African American English. African American English (AAE) is a systematic and rule-governed dialect of American English commonly used by African Americans that has distinct features that make it different from mainstream American English (MAE). The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) requires all speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to recognize dialects as a form of English to be respected and not a disorder to be treated. My participants were five SLPs who worked in a variety of elementary schools in Oklahoma and had a broad range of experience in the field. I asked questions to assess what they knew about nonstandard dialects like AAE, whether they took dialect into account during treatment, and how they would score a video of a child who spoke AAE taking a standardized language test. Many of the SLPs displayed confusion or bias regarding AAE. One SLP had a background in nonstandard dialects and was better able to answer questions about dialects than the other SLPs. She was also the only participant who knew that standardized assessment tests have dialect-specific scoring variations in the back of their manuals. Throughout my research, I found that many SLPs would, and in fact do, benefit from a course on dialects. Without a course, there is confusion on what to do with a child with a nonstandard dialect, and children with a nonstandard dialect may be sent to therapy in error.