According to the United States Census Bureau there are over 35 million U.S citizens that speak Spanish at home. According to ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) of the 35 million U.S citizens speaking Spanish at home, 3.5 million of these speakers have speech, language, hearing disorders or some type of developmental disorder. Furthermore, according to data taken by the CDC in 2008, 1 in every 88 child is diagnosed with the Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a result, there are large numbers of children diagnosed with the Autism Spectrum Disorder who are living in Spanish speaking homes in a largely English speaking country. Including nearly 2000 children in my hometown of Los Angeles (according to ELARC).
Can we teach our Autistic children Spanish? Can we teach our Autistic children English? Can we teach our Autistic children more than one language? There are meaningless names that are stamped throughout psychological and medical journals that say, “No, no we can not teach them a second language”. These names tell us “bilingualism will cause an “overload” and prove to be negative on the overall developmental language process on a child with Autism”.
However, there are others. There are people like me who believe that Autistic children need a voice not only in one language, but two, or three. There are people like me who refuse to believe that because a doctor or psychologist informs an Autistic boy or girl that he or she is only capable of learning one language, this is the end, this is your limit. There are people like me who refuse to believe that children with Autism have limits. There are people like me that truly believe that old adage, if you try and you really try hard, you can accomplish anything. My belief does not only extend to neuro-logically typical children, but to each and every child.
I believe the optimal solution is the training and development of more bilingual clinical psychologists that choose to work with children diagnosed with Autism and their families; this is where I intend to focus my career. I want to provide a service for families with Autistic children who are unable to communicate with their children and/or medical professionals. With an increase in native Spanish speakers in the U.S and an even more concentrated increase of Spanish speakers in California, the need for mental health and medical professionals who speak Spanish is ever-present and necessary.
However, it is most important for people to recognize that we set our own limits. Limits can and should be broken. Limits do not foretell where can go, but rather, limits provide us with a new beginning and a fresh start. Limits show us where we need to work the hardest and push the strongest.