The topics in this Multilingualism & Disorders series aim at clarifying the misconceptions that associate multilingualism with disorders.
Each topic offers a brief introduction to common questions, and includes one token reference, which either marks watershed findings or otherwise addresses points which are perhaps less known within research on multilingualism.
This condensed format is deliberate, meant to invite discussion, thoughts, and more queries. Only with your help, as engaged readers, can we make this series the useful tool that we hope it will become.
— Madalena Cruz-Ferreira
How can I find a speech-language therapist who works with bilingual/multilingual children in my area? And what questions should I ask?
Speech-language therapy training is currently geared to monolingual settings and so does not include training in multilingualism. In addition, speech-language assessment instruments and diagnoses are based on monolingual norms of language use, in that there are to date no multilingual norms that can help us distinguish speech-language impairment from multilingual normality.
Whether monolingual or multilingual, your speech therapist may thus have no knowledge of linguistic behaviours that are typical of multilingualism. Where therapist and child share at least one language, the therapist may follow the mainstream practice of assessing that one language of the child, on the (wrong) assumption that testing one language is the same as testing all languages of a multilingual.
There are nevertheless speech-language assessment methods devised for cases where the child and the therapist have no language in common, whose use with multilingual children is currently being discussed. These methods, sometimes labelled dynamic assessment in the literature, involve teaching the child, in clinic, items or structures (‘words’ or ‘grammar rules’) that are independent of any particular languages, and then testing whether the child has learned them.
One question that would be of relevance here is then to find out whether your therapist is familiar with dynamic assessment methods which test language ability, not ability in particular languages.
Specific reference for the above topic:
- Gutiérrez-Clellen, V. F., & Peña, E. D. (2001). Dynamic assessment of diverse children. A tutorial. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 32, 212-224.
Article abstract URL: lshss.asha.org/cgi/content/abstract/32/4/212
Journal URL: lshss.asha.org
General references relevant to core issues in the Multilingualism & Disorders series.
- Cruz-Ferreira, M. (2010). Multilinguals are …? Battlebridge Publications. Book URL: www.battlebridge.com
- Grosjean, F. (2010). Bilingual. Life and reality. Harvard University Press. Book URL: www.hup.harvard.edu
- Cruz-Ferreira, M. (Ed.). (2010). Multilingual norms. Peter Lang.
Book URL: www.peterlang.com
- Genesee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago, M. (2004). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Brookes Publishing.
Book URL: www.brookespublishing.com
- Grosjean, F. (2008). Studying bilinguals. Oxford University Press.
Book URL: ukcatalogue.oup.com