Early Intervention services provide support to families with young children who have developmental delays, disabilities, or specific health conditions. Limited English proficiency (LEP) families require the assistance of professional interpreters to understand the concerns expressed and discussed in Early Intervention appointments.
Global Arena published a blog titled “The Role of the Interpreter in Early Intervention” which goes into detail about these services. Our blog inspired interesting questions from a practicing interpreter that were answered by our Medical Interpreter Trainer. Below you can read over the Q&A on Early Intervention services and what is expected of an interpreter in this setting.
1. Should interactions between a child and a therapist be interrupted by an interpreter trying to relay the message to child’s parent?
Answer: The interpreter is there to interpret for the parents; the parents need to know everything that is being said to the child. The interpreter should interpreter any instruction given and anything said to the child. In consecutive interpreting, the provider should allow time for the interpreter to speak and interpret their words. If the provide does not pause often enough for the interpreter to interpret, it is permissible to interrupt once, explain to the provider that you would like them to pause every one or two sentences, and then interpret what has been said. Interrupting repeatedly is likely to be disruptive and hinder the overall communication between provider, patient, and family.
2. When children and therapist interact; should an interpreter interpret what is being said to the parent, so s/he knows what their child is being asked?
Answer: Yes, interpreters should interpret everything that is being said by the provider to the patient/family. If the therapist doesn’t want interruptions and decides the interpreter should not interpret for the parents; the interpreter must interpret that request to parents to allow them to raise any type of concern or to disagree with provider.
3. Should the interpreter interpret the questions a therapist is asking a child?
Answer: Yes. If the child is in need of an interpreter, then the interpreter should interpret for them. One of the roles of an interpreter is to be a clarifier and the interpreter may need to consider barriers of register and use adequate language (lower the register) without changing the message when interpreting for children.
4. Should a therapist evaluate language barriers on the part of the child before getting early childhood screening?
Answer: It is up to the therapist to decide if they want to evaluate the proficiency of the child and whether the interpreter is needed or not. The interpreter is there to facilitate understanding of two languages.
5. What should an interpreter do if a child is nervous, shy, or not willing to participate; because of the presence of the interpreter?
Answer: A well-trained interpreter should not make a child feel uncomfortable. By using good positioning, appropriate tone of voice, and good inflexion of voice; an interpreter should make it easier not more difficult for the child to interact with the therapist. It may be helpful to clarify to the child that the interpreter is there only to repeat what the provider says into the other language; to make things easily understood, but if an interpreter does this; they must first explain to the provider what they are going to say to the child to ensure that the provider is included in all communications and does not object.
6. Should an interpreter wait for the therapist to give instructions as to when to interpret important questions for a child?
Answer. An interpreter should interpret everything unless the therapist wants to continue without the interpreter’s help. It is up to the provider to let the interpreter know if they want to start the evaluation without the assistance of the interpreter; and then, depending on the proficiency of the child, they will ask the interpreter to start interpreting or help with words.
7. Should the child be present when discussing family and medical history?
Answer: It is not up to the interpreter to decide if the child is present or not during the family questions and health history, etc. This is a decision is for the provider to make without any input from the interpreter.
8. Should the interpreter be present during an evaluation or therapy session? Or is the interpreter only needed during parent and therapist interactions, evaluation results, screening overview, and parents’ questions.
Answer: If the child is proficient in English and the therapist only needs an interpreter for the parents, the interpreter does not need to be present unless the provider wishes.
The provider must decide whether they can communicate clearly with the patient (of any age). The interpreter should follow the provider’s instruction and help to facilitate communication; they should not provide medical or therapy advice.
Global Arena is a provider, among other language services, of in-person, telephonic and video remote interpreting services.
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