evaluating bilingual children

Evaluating bilingual children is difficult enough as it is.  Sometimes the process is made worse when we work for what we believe to be a proper evaluation and we are denied access to interpreters, bilingual personnel, and are asked to come to a conclusion without any home-language information.

Why does this happen?

Administrators are under a lot of pressure to reduce costs and make processes more efficient.  There is also a misunderstanding that evaluating bilingual children is actually more costly.  The truth is that an incorrect evaluation puts another child on our caseload and adds to the already rampant over-identification of minority populations.  The cost of 1 child in special education for one year is reported to be $5000.  No, it is worth the time and expense to get the diagnosis correct.

This question came to us and the response is worth sharing.

I discovered your site today and just wanted to say thank you for the wealth of information and resources provided there!  

Do you have a “cheat sheet” of some kind pointing monolingual SLPs to what the law states (and maybe ASHA) concerning best practice when evaluating bilingual children? I still get referrals for bilingual children whose placement (or lack of placement) in sped for speech-language services is due to incomplete evaluations.

I love this statement in one of the Bilinguistics resource documents:

“The message is clear. Speech and language testing needs to be cumulative (all languages) and not comparative (one language against the other).”

Also, some of our graduate students entering the field are also running into situations where their advocacy for complete (cumulative) bilingual evaluations is being dismissed or pretty much shut down for one reason or another. What can we point them to?

IDEA and ASHA both support evaluating bilingual children in a CUMULATIVE manner.

IDEA says…

Each public agency must ensure that assessments and other evaluation materials used to assess a child under Part 300 are provided and administered in the child’s native language or other mode of communication and in the form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, unless it is clearly not feasible to provide or administer.
[34 CFR 300.304(c)(1)(ii)] [20 U.S.C. 1414(b)(3)(A)(ii)]

A child must not be determined to be a child with a disability under Part B:

  • If the determinant factor for that determination is:
    • Lack of appropriate instruction in reading, including the essential components of reading instruction (as defined in section 1208(3) of the ESEA2);
    • Lack of appropriate instruction in math; or
    • Limited English proficiency; and
  • If the child does not otherwise meet the eligibility criteria under 34 CFR 300.8(a).

[34 CFR 300.306(b)] [20 U.S.C. 1414(b)(5)]

ASHA says…

Identifying a communication disorder in a bilingual individual requires careful consideration of the multitude of factors that influence communication skills. True communication disorders will be evident in all languages used by an individual; however, a skilled clinician will appropriately account for the process of language development, language loss, the impact of language dominance fluctuation, and the influence of dual language acquisition and use when differentiating between a disorder and a difference. Language dominance may fluctuate across a patient’s/client’s lifespan based on use and input and language history (Kohnert, 2012). An individual may be fluent in conversational communication (BICS), yet continue to have difficulties with communication needs in an academic arena (CALP). Observing an individual’s language skills in both areas is essential to develop a comprehensive understanding of his/her linguistic abilities.

Here is the ASHA position paper referring to what you were talking about.  A bit arcane in the language but still their stance.

Clinical Management of Communicatively Handicapped Minority Language Populations

What is truly needed when evaluating bilingual children?

When you think about a evaluating bilingual children you have to remember that your job is 80% the same and you already know how to do most of it.  Looking at the image, we see that a bilingual eval is exactly like a monolingual eval, with 4 more components.  Even if you are monolingual, you can carry on in a normal manner.   If you get results that are below typical, it is time to call in some bilingual support.

evaluating bilingual children 1

A big thanks to Ana Paula G. M. for her thought provoking question.

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