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Project Building Bridges: A Framework for Preparing Highly Qualified Speech-Language Pathologists to Serve Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students With Augmentative and Alternative Communication Needs.

PURPOSE: Project Building Bridges was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs to address the shortage of speech-language pathologists qualified to serve students with complex communication needs who benefit from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and are culturally and linguistically diverse. The purpose was to train future speech-language pathologists in culturally responsive AAC practices through coursework and fieldwork in AAC integrated into the Master of Science degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.

METHOD: Fifty-seven graduate students completed the project. The scholars' curriculum consisted of two AAC courses, both on-campus and externship AAC clinical practicum experiences to provide services to multicultural and linguistically diverse students, a U.S. or international service-learning opportunity, and cumulative portfolio presentations.

RESULTS: Mixed-methods outcome measures consisted of four sets of pre- and postsurveys and qualitative feedback from exit interviews to assess changes in graduate student competencies. Significant differences were demonstrated between scholars' pre- and post-assessments of confidence ratings. Significant differences were also demonstrated in both scholars' and school mentors' pre- and post-assessments of competency ratings. No significant differences were found between evaluations of AAC preparation by Clinical Fellowship (CF) candidates and their CF mentors at 1 year postgraduation.

CONCLUSIONS: Project Building Bridges provides a framework for preparing highly qualified speech-language pathologists to serve culturally and linguistically diverse students who benefit from AAC as evidenced by pre- and postsurvey results. The project can serve as a model for other university programs in the development of preservice preparation programs focusing on culturally and linguistically diverse students with AAC needs.

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