At Savonia University of Applied Sciences there are 3 online Master Degree programmes: Digital Health, Global Public Health and Energy Engineering. The programmes are fully conducted in English. All these programmes consist of Specialised Professional Studies, master level Elective studies and master’s thesis. The extent of studies varies from educational background from 60 to 90 ECTS.

One of the elective studies is Working and Studying in International Environment (5 ECTS). It is open to all students. The objectives of this course are strengthening student’s communicative skills and professional expertise in an international learning environment. In addition, the student will gain experience to work and learn effectively as a team member in another cultural environment.

The implementation of the course may vary according to destination and the role of the international co-operative partners. In this blog student Maija Talvi (Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health) shares her experience of working in multilanguage and multicultural environment as a speech therapist.

The overall goal of speech therapy is to improve clients’ competence in everyday situations. These situations can be for example playing with peers, to be able to understand and follow instructions at school, tell about the day in the kindergarten for parents. Therapy outcomes are the better the more child’s environment supports his/her development.

The amount of multicultural speech therapy clients has increased during the last decade in Fin-land. Not merely in capital region speech therapists work with families who speak Arabic, Russian, Somalian, Estonian or some other language at home.

Speech therapists should know about bilingual language acquisition but also have cultural competence. Conceptions about family and family members’ roles (nuclear vs. extended family) or how independent children should be can vary in different cultures. One concrete value continuum is concept of time; whether it is something that can measured or something that is given and consists of sequences instead minutes. In Finland, doctor’s, speech therapist’s and other professional’s appointments are scheduled strictly, and clients are expected to come in time. In some African cultures, time concept is more flexible, and Western idea of being ”on time” is not similar.

Thoughts concerning good parenthood and ways to communicate with children can vary a lot among different cultures. Even though professionals have some considerations about parenting and communication styles that support child’s development, we must be careful when presenting these suggestions. Research findings about the communication style that supports children’s language learning can be against to what is desirable in some cultures. It is important to keep in mind not to judge or criticize cultural differences or ways to be a parent. Cultural sensitivity recognizes differences between individuals from different cultures but do not criticize; instead, the idea is to be open and ask questions instead of making assumptions (THL 2021). Building the co-operation through open communication is important.

Kuvituskuvassa ryhmä tummaihoisia henkilöitä halaa toisiaan ja hymyilee.

Many of us have read news about Insufficient speech therapy resources in Finland. New ways to enable services to as many children and family as possible are needed. Äännekoulu has utilized digital solutions (remote therapy and digital platform for video messages, tutorial videos and rehabilitation games) for articulation problems and sound disorders successfully for several years. Now it is time to extend these solutions to serve multicultural clients and their families.

I did some research about Somalian healthcare and speech therapy services as a part of Working and Studying in International Environment studies. I wanted to understand better structural and cultural differences between Finland and Somalia, which is a home country for many clients’ families. As was predicted, resources are just a small proportion of those in Finland. Speech therapists’ work consist much of counselling families and other professionals and facilitating the change in children’s communication and language skills though indirect therapy. Educating community workers and other key persons is important part of their job in Eastern Africa.

In Finland we are traditionally used on individual face to face therapy either in speech therapist’s office or a therapist visiting child’s home or day care. Maybe it is Africa where we must turn our faces and start benchmarking good practices, instead of more developed countries like USA or European countries? If we combine counselling or coaching role of speech therapist and effective and secure digital solutions, we can serve many families in the early phase. This way we might be able to hinder children’s language and communication problems to become more severe.

As noted previously, multicultural clients and families are not a homogenous group, so it is not a simple task to design new services to support multicultural children’s language skills. Design actions require ongoing iteration along new information and experiences emerge. One practical example was that some immigrant parents did not know how to open digital language games because they were not familiar with hyperlinks. Another parent commented that Finnish video format with Somali subtitles was too difficult to follow since the parent was not used to subtitles in the first place. These examples reveal the need for ongoing co-design actions with families. As Somalian proverb puts it: “Intaadan fallin ka fiirso.”; Watch before your leap, think before you act. Ask and try it before you make it ready, I could add.

This blog is part of Maija Talvi’s performance for the course “Working and Studying in International Environment”.

Maija Talvi, Speech Therapist, Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health
Liisa Klemola, PhD, RN, Lecturer, Savonia UAS
Please read more about studying Digital Health from here.

Multicultural Speech Therapy – From Challenges to Solutions

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