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Course Type: Video – 1 1/2 hours

ASHA Course Code: Phonology/Articulatory Disorders – 3050

Speech-language pathologists frequently use research about typical speech development as a diagnostic indicator of speech sound disorders and to plan intervention. With different norms from different studies on different languages, which is correct?

Throughout the world, the majority of children learn to speak more than one language without difficulty. By 5-years of age, multilingual children can produce most consonants correctly and are intelligible to strangers. This presentation will include international research evidence and free resources (that will blow your mind!) to support the speech of multilingual children.

Level, Authors, and Disclosures

FINANCIAL: Dr. Sharynne McLeod received an honorarium from Bilinguistics for her presentation during this conference.


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Speech-language pathologists frequently use research about typical speech development as a diagnostic indicator of speech sound disorder and to plan intervention. Typical speech production measures include age of acquisition of consonants, vowels, consonant clusters and tones, percentage of consonants correct, occurrence of phonological patterns, intelligibility, and many other measures.

More than one in five people in the US speak a language other than English at home in the U.S. While Spanish is the dominant second language, hundreds of other languages are also spoken. A cross-linguistic comparison will be presented outlining children’s speech development. This presentation will draw on the work of McLeod and Crowe (2018) who undertook a cross-linguistic review of consonant acquisition in 27 languages by 26,007 children from 31 countries. Examples from diverse languages such as Spanish and Japanese will be presented. Limitations of the current literature on typical speech development will be discussed and the needs for future research as well as best practices for collecting and reporting data in future studies will be highlighted.

Who is correct?

In speech-language pathology practice in the US, the term ‘correct’ is often synonymous with Standard American English. SLPs act as gatekeepers during assessment, analysis and diagnosis and perpetuate boundaries based on standard dialects. This presentation will present a re-examination of the term ‘correct’. The diagnostic process will be examined to consider adopting a broader understanding of ‘correct’, ‘acceptable’, and ‘clinically significant’. The definition of ‘correct’ will be considered based on (1) speakers’ languages, dialects, and cross-linguistic transfer (bilingualism), as well as (2) speech-language pathologists’ languages, dialects, standpoints, assumptions, and reliance on the standard form of the language (e.g., on score forms of standardized assessments). SLPs will be challenged to adopt a dynamic definition of ‘correct’ that will impact diagnostic decision-making and will continue to change with further cross-linguistic research.

Applying knowledge of multilingual speech development in assessment

Evaluation and eligibility requirements for children with speech sound disorders is informed by research about typical speech development. There are a range of free evidence-based resources to support SLPs to undertake multilingual children’s speech assessment including: International Phonetic Alphabet, Multilingual Children’s Speech website and the Intelligibility in Context Scale. A case study of how SLPs can use these resources with multilingual Vietnamese-English-speaking children will be presented.

Participants will:   

  • Describe typical speech development across a range of languages and dialects.
  • Discuss multilingual perspectives relating to “correct” production.
  • Explain how to implement knowledge of multilingual speech development during speech assessments.
  • Access a variety of free evidence-based resources (e.g., International Phonetic Alphabet chart, Multilingual Children’s Speech website) to support multilingual children’s speech assessment.

Time-Ordered Agenda:

05 minutes–Introductions and disclosures

05 minutes – Multilingualism around the world

10 minutes – Children’s speech development in languages and dialects of the world

10 minutes – Children’s intelligibility in languages of the world

10 minutes – Who is correct? Thinking about language and dialect

10 minutes – Multilingual speech assessment

05 minutes – Free resources to support multilingual children’s speech development

05 minutes – Closing

30 minutes – Moderated Question and Answer session

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