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Speech assessment for multilingual children

Children of multilingual backgrounds, particularly as they learn the language of their host country, are at risk of being misdiagnosed as language-impaired. This was demonstrated at the level of grammatical morphology by Johanne Parades nearly 20 years ago in the United States (Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools (2005) 36(3), 172-187), and the same problem has been raised in other countries (see, for example, Scharff Rethfeldt W. Speech and Language Therapy Services for Multilingual Children with Migration Background: A Cross-Sectional Survey in Germany. Folia Phoniatr Logop. 2019;71(2-3):116-126. doi: 10.1159/000495565). SLPs’ level of experience, observe studies like these, functions directly in the accuracy of differential diagnoses between communication disorders and what may be in reality ordinary linguistic variations. Very recent work has highlighted some of the practical challenges that SLPs face, examined assessment protocols in different states and school districts, and considered successful strategies, that involve measures like interpreters and varying service delivery options (see, for example, McNeilly LG. Strategies Utilized by Speech-Language Pathologists to Effectively Address the Communication Needs of Migrant School-Age Children. Folia Phoniatr Logop. 2019;71(2-3):127-134. doi: 10.1159/000496969).

Noting that language-dominance is not a static skill, and drawing attention to cross-linguistic transfer effects among multilingual children at the phonological, lexical–semantic, and morphosyntactic levels, the American Speech–Hearing–Language Association offers a tutorial for SLPs, on assessment of language needs in these special populations. It is the work of 46 SLPs, linguists, phoneticians, and speech scientists with experience in 43 countries and 27 languages. It contains guidelines for assessment, identifies key aspects and resources, and shows a case study to demonstrate their application in practice. See a descriptive write-up at

MyoNews from BreatheWorksTM is a report on trends and developments in oromyofunctional disorder and therapy. These updates are not intended as diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease or syndrome.

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