In Fall 2021, the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing (NBASLH, pronounced “in bahz la" or /nbazle/) welcomed Adelphi University as its newest affiliate.
NBASLH aims to increase the number of Black speech, language and hearing professionals and to improve the quality of service delivery to Black individuals with communication disorders and differences. Although NBASLH was founded in 1978, its aims are as urgent as ever.
“In The Atlantic in 2013, speech-language pathology ranked as the fourth whitest profession in the United States, with 94.5 percent of speech-language pathologists being white,” said Miriam Velsor, clinical supervisor of speech-language pathology at the Adelphi University Hy Weinberg Center for Communication Disorders and the University’s NBASLH faculty adviser. “The problem with that is that students who aren’t white aren’t seeing people who look like them or have a true understanding of their lived racial or sociocultural experiences.”
Raising Visibility in the Community
Jennifer Mathurin, the president of Adelphi’s NBASLH affiliate chapter and MS in Speech-Language Pathology student, found a passion for speech-language pathology, but it wasn’t a straightforward path. “I love where I’m at now, but it was a long journey,” she said. “This whole field is not something that’s really known of in the Black community, so to promote and advocate, to share it with younger students, feels very important to me.”
In March, Mathurin and a fellow MS in Speech-Language Pathology student and NBASLH-AU board member Taylur Hayes, visited Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, New York. They presented information about speech-language pathology, audiology and various types of communication disorders to a group of 20 students at the school, where the majority of students are of color. NBASLH-AU has plans in the works for several more area visits to schools with student of color majorities in the coming year.
“The young people were captivated, and they were really excited to see Jennifer and Taylur,” said Velsor, who joined the Sewanhaka visit. “Just letting the students in high schools and middle schools know that it’s a profession that exists is important work.”
Connecting With Fellow Students and Professionals
While spreading the word about the field of communication sciences and speech-language pathology is an important part of NBASLH-AU’s work, the organization is also a valuable resource for the graduate students themselves. The group’s 25 members come together monthly. Sometimes they are joined by guest speakers, such as Sandy Dorsey, a veteran Black speech pathologist and founder of the nonprofit Smiles for Speech. Other times, the group gathers simply to discuss concerns and issues in the field.
Regardless of the agenda, each meeting helps the group build a valuable network. “It’s a great resource,” said Mathurin. “I’ve made a lot of great connections that I hope will last my whole career.”