Bilingual SLP or SLP who is bilingual?

There’s a difference.

Every so often, I see a question about whether someone who is bilingual should bother to complete a bilingual specialization or certificate program as part of their graduate training. The answers vary, and certainly there aren’t enough bilingual MA or MS programs that can provide the training, but does it matter. For me, it does. I think that SLPs who consider themselves bilingual SLPs have an ethical responsibility to be on top of the knowledge base required to practice in this area. Just like any SLP who is hired into any other position needs to have the knowledge base to meet the demands of that position.

A bilingual SLP needs to have knowledge and skills regarding bilingual development, identification of disorder in bilinguals, bilingual treatment, and knowledge about cultural factors that may impact service delivery. Asha has a statement outlining the baseline knoweldge you need to have to call yourself a bilingual SLP. Knowing another language alone does not provide you with this knowledge base any more than knowing English by itself would make you an SLP– SLPs have to complete an MA or MS degree taking courses that cover the scope of practice in the different disorder categories. I can’t imagine for example, that an SLP who stutters for example would be able to skip learning about how to assess and treat stuttering. Yes, they would bring in insights that others might not have, but it wouldn’t prepare them to work with this population. The difference of course is that knowledge and skills in bilingual assessment and treatment across all the disorder areas is not required for graduation, licensure or certification at a national level. Yet, I think that if we are going to serve bilingual populations, we need to develop the knowledge base to do so. Being bilingual IS NOT ENOUGH.

If you are bilingual and an SLP and don’t know about bilingual development, disorders, assessment, intervention, and counseling, then you are an SLP who is bilingual. You can become a bilingual SLP but you are not one yet. If this is the case, then taking courses, CEUs, reading the literature is a good way to develop and expand your practice.

Asha does not have specific rules for certifying that bilingual SLPs actually have the knowledge base that they claim. We must rely on each individual’s ethics in appropriately representing their skills and competencies. If you claim to be a bilingual SLP you are claiming that you have expertise in bilingualism, including bilingual assessment and treatment.

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Children’s use of Spanish in the U.S. Context

In this paper, we studied Spanish-English bilinguals between the ages of 4 and 7 years old. We were interested in the relationship between bilingual children’s age, their productivity in Spanish (as indexed by MLU) and their accuracy in morpheme production. We found that age didn’t predict correct production of grammatical forms but MLU did. The grammatical forms that children demonstrated mastery on (80% or more accurate) was related to MLU. We also found that relative difficulty for grammatical forms was similar for different levels of Spanish fluency. Let’s break it down.

Here you can see what forms children produced accurately (80% or more correct) as related to their MLU.

This graphic shows the relative difficulty in children’s productives of these forms. These are based on averages from 228 Spanish-English bilingual children between the ages of 4 and 7. Easy forms are those that children on average produced correctly about 70% or more of the time. Medium forms are those children produced correctly about 60% of the time. Finally, the hard items are those that children produced correctly about 40-50% of the time.

I hope that this information is useful for those who work with Spanish-English speaking children.

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Receptive Expressive Gap in Narratives

Assessment of narratives can be helpful in making a diagnosis of developmental language disorder (DLD). One of the things that I like about narrative assessment is that it is efficient, you can analyze the narrative at different levels (words, sentences, story). For kids who are bilingual, narrative assessment can provide a way to analyze their language when there aren’t standardized tests. Additionally, it appears that bilingual children transfer what they know about story structure from one language to another so that also makes it useful.

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Dynamic Assessment of Narratives: Which Language Should I Choose?

Dynamic assessment (DA) is a powerful approach that we can employ as part of diagnostic decision making. There are a number of advantages to DA, especially for children whose experiences don’t meet mainstream expectations including dual language learners. A number of DA approaches have been validated and show good sensitivity and specificity. DA of narratives and word learning are two of examples of these approaches.

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Grammatical Assessment of Bilingual Children in English

We’ve had a paper out for a couple of years now and I’ve been meaning to blog about it, but for some reason other things have taken priority. The question that we addressed in this study is the extent to which English assessment of children who are Spanish-English bilinguals would be useful for identification of DLD.

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Assessment of Bilinguals: Don’t Go NUTS!

For a long time, many of us have worked on development of better assessment methods for bilingual children. We know that many of the measures normed for monolinguals are not appropriate for bilinguals. We know that translated measures can lose their psychometric properties because difficulty may shift in translation. But, in the last 20 years there have been more measures and procedures that are validated for Spanish-English bilinguals. Work on other language pairs is emerging as well, but right now the majority of available measures focus on Spanish-English.

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We Can’t WAIT!

There’s been a lot of discussion concerning COVID19 and schooling from home. In the special education domain, at least in speech-language pathology, we seem to be all over the place. Not that it’s easy it’s not. But, I hear a lot of comments and reports that school districts are suspending special education testing:

  • till schools open again
  • because standardized tests aren’t standardized for on-line administration
  • because we’re not comfortable
  • because we think that it can’t be valid

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Why Opinion and Personal Observation isn’t as good as Systematic Research

Families of bilingual children with developmental language disorder (DLD) are often told to use only one language. School district personnel may insist that these children receive instruction in only one language even if there are bilingual programs available. Even bilingual personnel who work with children (teachers and SLPs for example) may say that children with DLD can become more confused if in a bilingual environment. This is simply not true. I have participated in many studies that demonstrate that bilingual children are not more likely to show higher risk for DLD than monolinguals; we know that bilingual children with DLD show comparable performance to monolingual children with DLD; we know that bilingual children with DLD show cognate advantages similar to typical bilinguals; we know that intervention in one language can carry over to the other language. This work is all supported by the data-based research (linked) and is consistent with work that other researchers are doing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Testing in Two Languages

When we test bilingual children we need to be able to do so in both of their languages. We can to look at speech and language in each of their two languages and we use this information to determine if their language production is like that of their typical (bilingual peers).

In the area of lexical-semantics we know that children who have exposure to two languages often show patterns of lexical knowledge consistent with their divided exposure. They may know home words in the home language and school words in the second language. It makes it difficult to test in only one language, but how do we take account of both their languages?

One of the observations we’ve made in many years of testing bilingual kids is that it is difficult at times for them to switch between languages– especially when they’ve been using English in diagnostics. This doesn’t mean of course that kids don’t codeswitch, they do and they do so during testing, but switching between languages on demand is hard.

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Cognate Advantage in DLD

Cognates are really interesting words that share meaning and sound the same across languages. Languages that share the same roots also have a large number of cognates because of their shared histories. Spanish and English share a large number of cognates.

We’ve studied cognate recognition in young children. In that study of kindergarten  and first grade children, we found that Spanish dominant children and English dominant children scored similarly on  a receptive vocabulary test given in English. But, they showed different patterns of response. Those who were Spanish dominant were more likely to know the cognates– even those that were above their age level. English dominant kids tended to know non-cognates. So, consistent with other studies, we found a cognate advantage for Spanish-speaking children learning English as a second language. In a recent study,  we were interested in whether bilingual children with DLD would show a similar cognate advantage. Read the rest of this entry »

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