Posts Tagged bilingual children

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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Another year: Do we know more?

Most posts I’ve seen reflecting on the past year seem optimistic. And there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. We do know more, and in the bilingualism area in particular there seems to be more awareness of the positive consequences of bilingualism. In aging, bilingualism seems to stave off Alzheimer’s disease. While the reasons for this is not entirely understood, one possibility is that the constantly moving back and forth between two languages enhances the ability to make choices between the two. This practice helps make the brain more efficient. Other theories point to development of more connections in the brain due to bilingualism. These connections form a cognitive reserve that helps to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

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