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Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2011 Nov-Dec;46(6):613-627. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00049.x. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Evaluation of speech and language assessment approaches with bilingual children.

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Speech and Language Therapy, Leicester Partnership Trust, Leicester, UKSpeech and Language Therapy, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.



British society is multicultural and multilingual, thus for many children English is not their main or only language. Speech and language therapists are required to assess accurately the speech and language skills of bilingual children if they are suspected of having a disorder. Cultural and linguistic diversity means that a more complex assessment procedure is needed and research suggests that bilingual children are at risk of misdiagnosis. Clinicians have identified a lack of suitable assessment instruments for use with this client group.


This paper highlights the challenges of assessing bilingual children and reviews available speech and language assessment procedures and approaches for use with this client group. It evaluates different approaches for assessing bilingual children to identify approaches that may be more appropriate for carrying out assessments effectively.


This review discusses and evaluates the efficacy of norm-referenced standardized measures, criterion-referenced measures, language-processing measures, dynamic assessment and a sociocultural approach.


When all named procedures and approaches are compared, the sociocultural approach appears to hold the most promise for accurate assessment of bilingual children. Research suggests that language-processing measures are not effective indicators for identifying speech and language disorders in bilingual children, but further research is warranted. The sociocultural approach encompasses some of the other approaches discussed, including norm-referenced measures, criterion-referenced measures and dynamic assessment.


The sociocultural approach enables the clinician to interpret results in the light of the child's linguistic and cultural background. In addition, combining approaches mitigates the weaknesses inherent in each approach.

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