My elementary school population has been going through a transition and is becoming more of a melting pot. I’ve been completing more bilingual assessments lately. There is always a risk of over identifying children that come from different cultural backgrounds. Most of our speech and language tests are normed for the average English speaking American child. In order to determine if the child has a language disability we need to determine it is not a language difference and the disability is apparent in both languages. This can be even more difficult if the child is caught between the use of two languages. The primary care giver may not have a good handle on English, but this is the primary language used at home. The child’s English model may not be standard English and they are not exposed to it until they reach school age. As a result their vocabulary and syntax skills may also be lower than expected.
When starting an assessment for special education, it is important to determine which language is dominant for the child. An interview with the caregiver will tell you how much the child has been exposed to English and what the predominant language is used in the household. The caregiver can also give developmental information. If the child made developmental milestones, there is less chance he/she has a language disability. Our English Learning program conducts regular testing to show progress. This information can be used to address the child’s functioning in English and if progress is steady. I am fortunate that my district employs interpreters that can help complete speech assessments. Sometimes it’s possible to get a speech assessment in both languages such as using the Spanish CELF and English CELF. The scores can be compared to reveal discrepancies and if the child has a delay in both languages.
I found a web sites that I find useful when completing bilingual assessments. It gives resources and considerations for doing bilingual assessments. Its called Multicultural Topics in Communication Sciences and Disorders . I also put it on the blog roll for easy reference. There is also a handy site that provides text to speech and translation for multiple languages. It is Text to Speech Translator.