English As A Second Language
Language Disorders vs. Language Differnce
Rapidly changing demographics of North Texas areas are bringing a cultural shift in schools and service delivery methods for typical as well as special needs students. The discrimination between language delay and language difference is very critical for an SLP servicing bilingual/ multilingual clients who are getting education in an English speaking environment.
In simple terms for assessments done in English, speech and language deficits refer to the inability to pronounce English sounds, understand language receptively and express oneself. Speech and language differences refer to difference, absence of or additional sounds in English due to presence of a dialect or second language. Individuals with language difference usually have no difficulty in communicating with the members of own language and community and can understand the body language and rules of communication.
Bilingual/ multilingual children can sometimes manifest language delays (due to impairment) as language differences (due to bilingualism) and often fall through cracks. This leads to late diagnosis and treatment, thus resulting in impact on academics and low grades in school. On the other hand, sometimes the straightforward tests, without consideration of language diversity may also lead to lower scores while child may still be adjusting to the new or two languages and not actually have a deficit in speech.
We at Main Step Therapy understand how evaluating and treating culturally and linguistically diverse children requires knowledge of the cultural heterogeneity. The standardized assessments alone do not yield reliable results when evaluating a child using tests that are designed for monolingual English speakers. In order to distinguish between language disorder and language difference, it is important to use dynamic assessment, formal & informal testing to create a modified approach to reach the complete picture. Our assessment not only takes into consideration the language but also the culture of the family. We include in our comprehensive assessments many factors like family interviews, analysis of both communicating environments, phonetic inventory of both languages etc. to get a complete picture of child’s communication skill level. We devise goals based on the results of the whole picture, rather than number values on the test scores alone.
Just like evaluating, therapy must also sensitive to cultural, linguistic and dynamic needs of the population. Treating communication deficits for population of diverse languages similarly requires knowledge and understanding of the cultural heterogeneity. It is our aim to expand our team with members who are fluent in variety of minority languages to cater to the present and growing cultural map in Dallas Metroplex. Currently our staff is fluent in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Potohari. We are adding providers in Arabic, Spanish and other languages to our group as a response to diverse communication demands the Metroplex presents.
As service providers, we SLPs are also advocates of our students and their families. Our understanding of their unique family and cultural structure helps us help them get adequate treatment. Sometimes we become the bridge between our families and the school teachers/ staff and other service providers. This makes it very important for SLPs to equip themselves with skills to be sensitive about those with different ethnic backgrounds.
Besides providing direct services as speech pathologists to our clients, we also conduct routine in-service for schools, daycares, montessories regarding bilingual language acquisition and unique issues it may manifest in presence of a language deficit. As a parent you can refer us to your child's day care center to conduct in-service so we can help the teachers provide the growing diverse population with better understanding of their unique communication needs.