36. Empowering Professionals and Caregivers to Improve the Lives of Children Around the World with Sandy Dorsey, MA, CCC-SLP

Jun 29, 2021 | 0 comments

We often discuss learning differences, developmental disorders, assessments and interventions with respect to children in the United States. But what about children across the globe who need support? Today’s guest shares this staggering statistic – 90% of school aged children across the world do not receive the education and services they need; at the time of the recording, I thought that it was 50%, and my heart dropped. What can we do to help? In today’s episode, Sandy Dorsey and I have a conversation about the amazing work she is doing and the global impact she is making.

Sandy Dorsey is a speech-language pathologist in New York with a passion for advocating for children on a global level. Through her organization, Smiles for Speech, she has worked with children, families, caregivers, educators, and doctors around the world. Today she shares some of her experiences in Ghana, Kenya, and Peru and through teletherapy and traveling overseas with a team, she has helped spread the word regarding providing services in underserved communities.

This conversation is inspiring and eye-opening. Listen in to learn Sandy’s approach to connecting with diverse communities and educating families to better serve children around the world. 

Show Notes:

[2:15] – Karen and Sandy have not met in person but are alumni from Howard University.

[3:04] – Through Sandy’s travels, she became passionate about advocating for children globally.

[4:29] – Sandy discusses the fact that many people across the world do not have access to speech therapy nor do they know what it is.

[5:13] – Many school-aged children around the world do not attend school due to the lack of funding and services for their special needs.

[6:05] – In many communities, there is a negative stigma and attitudes surrounding developmental disorders due to lack of awareness.

[7:17] – Sandy describes her approach when helping families in different cultures with their child’s unique challenges.

[8:43] – Sharing ideas is something that is key to Sandy’s approach. This gives families options and she can see their response.

[9:51] – In some cultures, Sandy has found that many fathers leave when they find that their child has a developmental disorder. Sandy explains that connecting with the child’s mother is important to her approach.

[10:45] – Because of negative stigma and beliefs, children with developmental disorders are sometimes hidden completely from their community.

[12:01] – The services provided even through teletherapy have provided families with strategies and support. Word-of-mouth testimonies have helped with the negative stigma in some communities.

[13:22] – In Kenya specifically, Sandy explains that community members and families didn’t know that speech therapy existed and now the word is spreading.

[14:30] – Sandy points out that it isn’t just communication that this type of therapy helps. Swallowing is another part of the program and can help with feeding issues that could cause malnutrition.

[15:48] – In some cases, families know about services but cannot access them or afford them. In some communities, services mean just once a year.

[17:01] – The most important thing to look for in speech and communication is to note if the child is requesting or initiating communication.

[18:27] – Once a child is requesting what they need, pause to give them the opportunity to verbalize it. If they are not, that could be a red flag.

[19:46] – Sometimes comprehension of spoken language can be misunderstood as a hearing problem or a problem with attention.

[21:13] – Sandy shares recent work with doctors and psychologists in Ghana. In some countries, doctors are saying that not talking is normal till the age of 4.

[23:10] – In these cases, so much time has lapsed for the child.

[23:47] – Sandy explains what she does on a local level in her community in New York working in preschools to educate teachers and caregivers.

[25:51] – Word of mouth plays a role in the area of educating professionals and doctors as well. Sandy collaborates with them through workshops and training.

[26:50] – Sandy shares a story about a baby that was not eating and how this type of therapy benefits more than just communication.

[27:43] – The key to global impact is interdisciplinary collaboration.

[28:43] – In addition to working with children, Sandy has worked with adults in Peru with a team of other therapists and experts.

[29:48] – Even in the United States, it is difficult to add needed services through the process we have. Having a team is so much more beneficial.

[31:08] – Sandy describes Smiles for Speech, the organization she has founded to provide global support.

[32:40] – Traveling has been paused due to COVID-19, but Sandy hopes to resume overseas work in 2022.


About Our Guest:

Sandy Dorsey is a speech-language pathologist (SLP), educator, and global advocate for children with special needs. She has provided diagnostic and therapeutic speech services for over 25 years in a variety of SLP care settings for children and adults primarily from diverse and underserved communities. She serves local schools and skilled nursing facilities with a team of speech-language pathologists, clinical fellows, and graduate students via teletherapy at her New-York-based private practice, All About Speech, LLC

As a proud Howard University graduate, Sandy is eager to give back to the next generation of speech-language pathologists with a focus on cultural responsiveness and increasing diversity in the field of speech-language pathology.

Sandy founded Smiles for Speech in July, 2017 to empower professionals and caregivers in low income communities; her organization provides support with evidence-based intervention through interdisciplinary service trips, teletherapy, workshops, and parent support groups. Their goal is to provide long-term sustainable solutions for intervention services with a multi-disciplinary approach that includes intensive training for staff and families through mindful collaboration with other non-profit organizations with similar values. 


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