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Marianna Rivera ‘15

Committed to increasing Latinx community access to Spanish-language speech therapy

Marianna Rivera ‘15 is a bilingual speech-language pathologist based out of Chicago, IL and the owner of Palabras Speech Therapy LLC. While she worked for her first years in the field in public elementary schools, she always knew she wanted to eventually make the switch into private practice. When the pandemic hit, she started taking the first steps towards starting her speech therapy private practice. One thing was always at the forefront: making sure her services were linguistically and culturally appropriate to meet the Latino community’s growing need for this service.

The field of speech- language pathology is overwhelmingly white and has long had barriers in place that kept candidates of color out of the field. Marianna recalls feeling like the only Latina in her Communication Sciences & Disorders courses at UW- Madison. Currently, only about 6% of members and affiliates of ASHA (the American Speech- Language Hearing Association) identify as Hispanic or Latinx. Only about 8% of ASHA members report that they provide speech therapy services in a language other than English. In a city as racially diverse as Chicago, this means that there exists a huge demand for speech therapists that speak languages other than English and not nearly enough clinicians to meet that demand. This is true across educational settings, medical settings, and in private practice. By establishing Palabras Speech Therapy, Marianna is hoping to ameliorate that demand.

Palabras Speech Therapy offers speech and language therapy services in both English and Spanish to Chicago. She offers training to parents so they learn how to best support their children’s communicative development beyond their weekly therapy sessions. Marianna treats late talkers, articulation and phonology delays and disorders, stuttering, pragmatics and social language, autism, and language delays or disorders. She also mentors other bilingual speech therapists in training via her participation in the BEAM (Bilingual Empowerment through Allied Mentorship) SLP Program. Marianna recognizes that as one of the few Latina, bilingual speech therapists in her area, she has a responsibility to make her services both economically accessible and linguistically & culturally appropriate to the Latinx community. She’s guest lectured to universities and hospitals on promoting early literacy in Latinx families, bilingual clinical intervention, and more. Learn more about her work and services at