Bilingualism for Children with Disabilities

I have a new paper out that is part of a special issue in the Journal of Communication Disorders. I encourage you to read the whole issue. It is based on an international collaboration where researchers used different methods including interviews, observations, record and policy review to understand current perspectives on bilingualism in children with developmental disabilities. The set of papers is excellent and shows that indeed we as a field have increased and evolved in what we know about bilingualism. Teachers, special educators, parents, and policy makers understand that it is important for children who speak different language at home and at school to be bilingual. There is a growing awareness that bilingualism can be an advantage. This is very good news. For me, I was heartened to know that the message is getting through, that there is a broader awareness, and that there is more attention and effort to putting these ideas into practice.

At the same time, it’s hard to do. We still need to figure out the practicalities of supporting the home and school languages. We need to learn more about what can transfer between languages and how parents and teachers can support and reinforce language learning to best benefit the child. There are many people trying to do what’s best for these kiddos but we need more practical, applicable methods. I talk a little about this and how the knowledge base has increased in my paper. Read it– it’s available through the journal for free till the middle of December, 2016.


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  1. #1 by eacrisfield on November 7, 2016 - 8:22 am

    Would very much like to read this article but can only find paid options!

  2. #2 by Elizabeth D. Peña on November 7, 2016 - 8:44 am

    thanks for letting me know, I updated the URL

  3. #3 by eacrisfield on November 8, 2016 - 5:22 am

    Thank you!

  4. #4 by Becky on November 23, 2016 - 4:53 pm

    Thank you, Dr Peña. As a trilingual SLP working in early intervention, it’s so important we continue research in this area. Often parents do give up on L1 in favor of L2 because of the struggle to learn language. By the time they want to reintroduce L1 many years later, in grade school or middle school, the child often has limited receptive language in L1 and almost zero expressive language. From what I have seen, it then becomes very challenging for the child to pick up their L1 skills where they left them years ago. I’m glad this issue is getting attention.

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