I haven’t posted for a while, things have been pretty busy finishing up a project and starting another, applying for grant money so that we can pay for proposed projects and so on. But, today I got a message from a bilingual SLP who works in early intervention. She had some concerns about some decisions and procedures being made by the local school district. She was working to do an assessment of a 3-year old child who had approximately 10 words in his or her vocabulary. Now most of us would see this as strong evidence of a language delay or impairment. But, what if the child’s first language is not English?

Well, turns out that this particular district wanted to say that the limited vocabulary was due to English as a second language. How does that even make any sense? By 3 years of age, a child knows a few hundred words. They may know some in the first language, some in the second language, but together they should add up to quite a lot, not 10.  By 2 years old, children should be producing AT LEAST 25 words, so 10 is NOT ENOUGH (not even for a 2 year old, let alone 3). Children in early stages of learning another language might not know many words in that language, but they should know sufficient (compared to their age) words in their first language or in their first and second combined.



30 YEARS AGO!!!!!!!! 

okay 31, but 30 is more dramatic.

OMG haven’t we learned anything by now????? We have, but how do we get people, SLPs, administrators, special education directors, etc. to apply that knowledge in a consistent way. How is it that we know that 10 words is not enough vocabulary knowledge for a 3 year old kiddo, but then think that it might be okay if a child is learning a second language? Is it discrimination, stupidity, ignorance, racism? 30 fucking years!

I think probably this isn’t so widespread, but it still happens and it’s so shocking to me that it does at all. Okay, enough ranting. Have a good weekend and push back, these kiddos need services now not later.

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  1. #1 by Anonymous on March 25, 2016 - 4:34 pm

    WoW. Thanks for sharing your rant. Indeed, there are issues out there that blow me out of the water.

  2. #2 by Becky on April 19, 2016 - 2:30 pm

    Dr. Peña, I feel your pain here! I am also continually educating colleagues about bilingual language development and that being exposed to two languages should not interfere with reaching early developmental milestones.
    In looking at expressive language development, most research indicates that 90% of English speaking children who are 24 months old should have AT LEAST 50 words that they use regularly. So to think that it’s not a red flag for an expressive language delay when a child is three years old and has only 10 words is unbelievable! I’ll have to dig around my files to see if I can find bilingual developmental milestones, but it only makes sense to me that they would be very similar. Thank you for this blog and for the research. It continues to be very necessary and very relevant!

  3. #3 by Veronica on April 21, 2016 - 3:00 pm

    This is my first visit and my last. Do you really need to use expletives to provide a coherent response to a very legit concern? Something so obvious to you may not be to others. Do you think that everyone is reading up on bilingual issues or been to one of your lectures? My first impression was that this would be a respectable site….guess I was wrong.

  4. #4 by Recipe SLP on April 22, 2016 - 7:56 am

    After dealing with with the same issues for more than 25 fucking years, I could not agree more!

  5. #5 by Brenda on April 22, 2016 - 11:14 am

    With 1 in 5 individuals in the U.S. speaking a language other than English in the home, YES, we can expect that all SLPs are reading up on bilingual issues. The ASHA Code of Ethics indicates “Individuals shall not discriminate in the delivery of professional services or in the conduct of research and scholarly activities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity/gender expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, disability, culture, language, or dialect.” The example illustrates discrimination in service delivery based on language.

  6. #6 by Elizabeth D. Peña on September 6, 2016 - 1:49 pm

    Just came across this, see page 4

    Click to access addendum-q-and-a-on-elp-swd.pdf

    “As explained in the Dear Colleague Letter: English Learner Students and Limited English
    Proficient Parents jointly issued on January 7, 2015, by the Department and the Department
    of Justice (2015 DCL): http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-el-201501.pdf.

    The Departments are aware that some school districts have a formal or informal
    policy of “no dual services,” i.e., a policy of allowing students to receive either EL
    services or special education services, but not both. Other districts have a policy of
    delaying disability evaluations of EL students for special education and related
    services for a specified period of time based on their EL status. These policies are
    impermissible under the IDEA and Federal civil rights laws… (p. 25)”

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