Identification and differential diagnosis of phonological disorder in bilingual children

Holm, A.; Dodd, B.; Stow, C.; Pert, S.
July 1999
Language Testing;Jul99, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p271
Academic Journal
Diagnosis of speech disorder in children acquiring two languages is problematic. There are few norms for bilingual language acquisition, and speech–language pathologists are unlikely to speak both languages of the bilingual populations they serve. Further, knowledge concerning the phonological structure of many languages is limited. This article describes the development of a phonological assessment for bilingual children. The assessment was administered to normally developing bilingual children as well as children suspected of speech disorder. The children with speech disorder were referred to the Rochdale Healthcare NHS Trust Speech and Language Therapy Department for assessment of their speech. All of the children spoke either Mirpuri, Punjabi or Urdu at home but were exposed to English at nursery or school. The phonological development of bilingual children in each language is described. The normally developing children showed phonological error patterns in English that would be considered atypical of normal monolingual development in English. The error patterns of two children with speech disorder are also described. The error patterns are consistent with research evidence concerning subgroups of speech disorder in monolingual and bilingual children. The findings provide further support for the hypothesis that symptoms (surface error patterns) of speech disorder are language independent, (i.e., that a single deficit underlies the speech disorder across both languages). The clinical implications for assessment and treatment of speech disorder in chil-dren exposed to more than one language are discussed.


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