Success Story: Funding a Bidialectal Program With Regular Education Funds

Kelli Wright, SLP
Dekalb County Schools, Georgia

What did you do?

A few years ago, the superintendent in my district became interested in helping all students develop effective communication skills. So my colleagues and I developed the Bidialectal Program. Bidialectal means two ways of speaking. The context in which one is speaking drives the style of communication. Students in the Bidialectal Program have patterns of communication that are different rather than disordered, so this initiative was funded with regular, rather than special, education funding.

What were your greatest challenges?

One of our first challenges was trying to help our administration understand the difference between disordered communication skills and different patterns of communication. We wanted to teach students standard English and school-appropriate pragmatic skills, while preserving the home dialect. Second, we needed to develop teaching strategies that would honor a child's typical pattern of communication, yet teach them when, where, and with whom it could be used most appropriately. We also needed to train SLPs and teachers to implement the program and teach them about state-mandated curriculum standards for oral communication.

We were continually faced with funding issues. Initially, our district agreed to pay for the program. Over time, we realized that other funding sources would need to be identified. Ultimately, the program was funded under Title I, because those funds are designed for programs that serve students who are economically disadvantaged. The majority of students involved in the Bidialectal Program are from economically disadvantaged areas.

What advice would you give others?

I would suggest that SLPs continue to go about the business of learning how great a relationship exists between the programs that they develop for their students in speech and language and what is going on in the regular curriculum. The lines between students with IEPs and regular education students are narrowing, especially with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. The more SLPs can learn about what works in a regular curriculum and about the standards-based movement, the better able they will be to develop IEPs for their students with disabilities.

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