Professor helps educators eliminate language barriers


Hortencia Kayser, professor of speech-language pathology at The W helps educators help children for whom English is a second language.

Hortencia Kayser, professor of speech-language pathology at The W helps educators help children for whom English is a second language.
Photo by: Courtesy photo



MUW University Relations



A Mississippi University for Women faculty member is helping educators identify children with speech and language impairments when English is their second language. 


"In many school districts there are no bilingual speech-language pathologists or qualified interpreters to administer diagnostic tests to Hispanic children or children from other ethnic backgrounds," said Hortencia Kayser, professor of speech-language pathology at The W. "Identifying children who are speech and language impaired becomes difficult for school professionals when they don't know the child's home language." 


According to Kayser, the English as a second language (ESL) teacher or the English language teacher (ELT) is typically the individual who provides English language instruction to these children. In many school districts, children from diverse backgrounds may not receive special services until they learn English, which could take three years. 


"Early identification of children who are having difficulty in learning English or struggling with classroom assignments is important for early intervention and remediation," she said. 


Kayser recently presented a paper titled "Assessment for English Learners" at the Teaching and Engaging English Learners Teacher Symposium in Jackson. The conference was sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Education and the American Institutes for Research. 


She reviewed the assessment challenges school professionals experience when assessing bilingual children for language impairment. She also provided alternative assessment procedures that English language teachers may use to assist the speech-language pathologist to determine if a bilingual child has a language impairment. 


"I enjoyed presenting at this conference because I was able to share information to individuals who are in daily contact with children who are learning English as their second or third language," said Kayser. "These professionals were interesting, knowledgeable and committed to assisting these children with the challenges of the school culture." 


The conference hosted professionals from across the state, including speech-language pathologists, English language teachers, psychologists and counselors. The majority of the attendees were teachers who worked with children from Hispanic or Middle Eastern homes. 


Kayser is a fellow of the American Speech, Language, Hearing Association and has received the award for Special Contributions to Multicultural Affairs. She received her bachelor and master's degrees from the University of Arizona and completed her doctorate at New Mexico State University. She is a bilingual speech-language pathologist and has served the Hispanic communities in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Missouri.  


Her career focus has been the accurate assessment and appropriate treatment for bilingual preschool and school-age children.



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