Communicative Disorders Program Department of Special Education

Image: Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus

Mission Head Start Clinic

The Mission Head Start Clinic takes place in two preschool Head Start classrooms at Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc, located in the Mission District in San Francisco. Mission Neighborhood Centers has been providing child development services to the communities of the Mission District since 1969. The speech-language clinic has been in place since 2008. Spanish is the predominant language spoken by the children and their teachers at the Mission Head Start Clinic. Graduate and undergraduate students from the Communicative Disorders Program at SFSU provide speech and language screening, assessment, treatment, and referrals to the children in the classrooms, in Spanish and English, depending upon the language choice of the child.

Central to the clinic philosophy is that every student clinician receives clinical training that supports the degree of bilingualism possessed by that student, and every child receives speech and language support in the language that best supports that child’s language development.

Clinical training in bilingual settings is both challenging and exciting because students and children both vary considerably in their bilingual backgrounds. Bilingualism of any kind is an asset, and clinical training in this setting supports and extends everyone’s bilingual skills. Central to this experience are team building, following the child’s lead in the classroom, and training in the classroom arena.

1. Team Building

Team-building supports the training needs of bilingual student clinicians, while also providing clinical training experiences with bilingual children and colleagues to monolingual student clinicians. Children get to experience intensive exposure to Spanish and/or English with their friends and the student clinicians.


2. Following the Child’s Lead in the Classroom

The classroom curriculum is built around children finding the balance between making choices during free play and participating in more structured tasks. The students in training must meld their therapeutic goals and activities around and in support of the children’s activities while still pursuing their own clinical goals. Children’s choices of play and talk are reinforced and supported, and this provides a foundation for the development of language skills.


3. Training in the Classroom Arena

The classroom arena provides a naturalistic environment in which clients are observed, assessed and treated. Student clinicians engage in the entire gamut of service delivery models, ranging from one-on-one, to small group, to large group, to whole class service delivery models, and training in the classroom arena provides an opportunity to connect the range of service models into a coherent framework. The classroom also offers a context in which to provide literacy experiences to all the children, thereby providing preparation for kindergarten and beyond.

It is essential to my professional growth and identity that I be engaged in clinical work that connects meaningfully with my teaching and research. My clinic continually challenges me to think and teach about the therapeutic process from the points of view of clinical instructor, clinician, and client.

Below are photos of childrenfrom Head Start classrooms in San Francisco, many of whom attend Mission Head Start. Thank you to Michael Levin for making his beautiful photos available for viewing. michaelalevinphotography.com

~ Laura Epstein

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