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Evaluating a Bilingual Child When You Don't Speak Their Language

Kelly Jackson, MS, CCC-SLP

December 7, 2020

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Question

Can I evaluate a bilingual child if I do not speak the same language(s) as they do?

Answer

Yes! The ASHA document, “Knowledge and Skills Needed by Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologist to Provide Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services” identifies the following as skills needed by a clinician who does not have language proficiency in the language of the client or patient:  knowledge and skill in “obtaining information on the features and developmental characteristics of the language(s)/dialect(s) spoken or signed by the client/patient; obtaining information of sociolinguistic features of the client’s/patient’s significant cultural and linguistic influences; and developing appropriate collaborative relationships with translators/interpreters (professional or from the community)” (ASHA, 2004). 

It is important to begin the evaluation of children suspected of speech or language disorders by looking at the cultural background and language history/background. Information about their exposure to both languages, whether or not they were a simultaneous or sequential bilingual, their current language environment and input, as well their cultural values, beliefs, and practices can help guide you in determining the best methods of evaluation. (Paradis, Genesee, Crago, 2011). Information can be gathered through a thorough interview with the parent or caregiver, as well as with the client depending on their age.

A bilingual child with a suspected speech or language disorder should be assessed in both of their languages in order to accurately determine if a disorder is present (Paradis, Genesee, Crago, 2011). As stated earlier, a child with a speech or language disorder will present with a disorder in both of their languages, so it is important to assess them in both of their languages.

Refer to the SpeechPathology.com course, 20Q: Bilingual Service Delivery: Where Do I Start, for more information on bilingual service delivery to better serve diverse caseloads in schools and other clinical practice settings.


kelly jackson

Kelly Jackson, MS, CCC-SLP

Kelly Jackson received her Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders and Spanish and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Alabama. She began her career as a speech-language pathologist working in a skilled nursing facility and has experience working in many different settings including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and public schools. Kelly has worked with patients ranging from early childhood to geriatric with various speech, language, and swallowing disorders. She speaks Spanish and has had experience in conducting speech therapy and evaluations in Spanish in various settings and is currently completing an advanced certificate in bilingual speech-language pathology. In her current position, Kelly teaches in the undergraduate and graduate speech-language pathology programs at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and serves as the clinical lab coordinator.


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