A Tech Spin on “A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words”: Using Photo Books to Increase Vocabulary, Grammar, and Narrative Skills

I recently read with great admiration Becca’s post in which she described how to make and use photo books for language development.  It is true that children love bright, colorful photos, and they love to talk about them even more when they are personally relevant! Becca’s specific descriptions (and video demonstration) of language strategies to use in the context of creating and reviewing photobooks are definitely going to be helpful to many parents and SLPs.

However, if you know my work at all, you know that I am always asking how technology might assist in any learning and language process. I am also one of the least craftsy and most printer-hating and store-averse people on the planet. Therefore ordering photos, picking them up at CVS, decorating with stickers and other flair, laminating (*shiver*) and binding the books…not a list of verbs I personally relish.  Let’s not say it’s a guy thing, but maybe that’s just the elephant in the post.  So, if you want to hear about a few digital options for implementing Becca’s terrific methods, read on!

I first have to point out that creating all-digital (or mostly digital) versions of these activities is facilitated by the way that families often do photography these days.  Many families own and know how to use digital cameras (including the ones on their smartphones), and archive their photos in places such as Kodak Gallery, Picasa, iPhoto or even Facebook. So, whether photobooks as a language context are to be created by the families themselves, or a clinician is going to create the product while eliciting language from the child, the raw materials are often already digitized, easily downloadable and e-mailable! If actual prints are involved, it is no longer an arduous process to scan them, or it can often be easier to place them out of glare and just take a nice shot of the picture with a digital camera or smart phone.  Once you have digital photos to work with, there are a few options you might consider.

One of these is Little Bird Tales, a free online picture book creator.  Little Bird Tales has a simple, kid-and-family-friendly interface (and a great tutorial) and the added bonus of allowing you to add voice captions to each picture.  When the book is complete, it can remain “private” and password-protected, but you can also share it with others via email.  The book remains digital, however, and cannot be printed.

The text and “Add Your Voice” features of Little Bird Tales are a great opportunity to develop vocabulary and sentence structure!

Another great option is Glogster, the online digital poster creator, also free except for certain premium features.  Glogster has an EDU version, and parents can also sign up at home through the regular portal.  Glogster also has a very kid-friendly interface, and allows you to create a poster of your event’s images, along with supplementary graphics and audio clips.

Glogster’s Magnet tool is all you need to upload your images, add text, and record sound! As children choose “Frames” for pictures, additional descriptive language can be elicited.

Glogster creations can be printed for offline use, and can also be marked private and shared via email.  Glogster is a little more complicated to use than Little Bird Tales (but not much!), so you might want to check out the tutorials I posted on YouTube. Additionally, both Glogster and Little Bird Tales are Flash-based (and therefore will not work on iPad, until their apps are available?) so if you run into trouble, you may want to make sure you have the latest version of Flashand update your browser, steps that are important for keeping your Web workin’!

When I mentioned iPad, did that make your ears perk up? One of my favorite recent discoveries is Skrappy ($4.99), a robust iPad app that you can use to create a decorated and annotated scrapbook of your photos! Like many iPad creation tools, Skrappy has a built-in-tutorial (in the “Getting Started” Scrapbook, so you and the kiddos can be creating in no time!

Skrappy’s simple tap-based interface lets you add whatever you’d like to your photobook: images, video, audio captions, text, decorative shapes and graphics to associate with the pictures, even music!

For another iPad take on photobooking, check out Mobile Education Stores new app, SpeechJournal (3.99), “a customizable voice recorder that you pair recorded messages with your own imported images and image sequences.”  Speech Journal is super-simple to use, contains its own video tutorial, and allows you to pair voice recordings with single images or continue recording across multiple images, resulting in a slideshow (and sequenced narrative)!  When complete, the journal can be emailed and played on a home computer in QuickTime player, a free download.

Finally, if you’d like a simple and quick (but perhaps a little more expensive) digital take on the photobook, iPhoto on Mac features a tool for you to create and order books to be delivered to you (for example, you can buy a 3-pack of one 20-page soft cover book from Apple for about $11.00). Alternately, go to the Create menu on Picasa (on either platform) to create and email/print a photo collage (expensive in a toner cartridge sense, but easy to do)!

Hope you enjoyed this digital spin on photobooking; if you have any other tech tools you’d like to suggest for use with personally relevant photos in order to build language, please let us know in the comments!

[This post originally appeared on Child Talk]

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He consults on the topic of technology integration in speech and language and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: LookingatTechnologyThroughaLanguageLens.

Setting and Tracking Articulation Goals

(This post originally appeared on Mommy Speech Therapy)

I can’t believe the school season is almost here already, and has probably already started for some of you! To celebrate new classes, students, and goals I thought I’d share my “Articulation Goal Tracker” form with all of you. This form can be a beneficial way for both parents and Speech-Language Pathologists to set and track goals for articulation therapy.

Setting Goals:

The first step in any articulation program is always deciding where to begin. Speech-Language Pathologists usually use standardized tests such as the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation or other articulation tests/screeners to determine what sounds our students/clients struggle with. Then we consider what sounds are most stimulable (what sounds we can elicit from the student/client without much difficulty), and any patterns we may see among the speech errors that were produced when setting our goals. After I have tested a student and determined what sounds the student needs to work on I simply write the sounds at the top my Articulation Goal Tracker sheet and I am ready to begin therapy.

Parents can usually tell right off what sounds their child struggles with. However, sometimes it may be more difficult for a parent to know which sound to begin with. When counseling parents on what sounds to start practicing first I like to have them circle the sounds on the bottom left corner of the Articulation Goal Tracker that their child does not produce correctly. Then we use their answers as a guide to determine speech goals for their child. The sounds appear on my goal sheet as “sounds” not phonemes to make it easier for a parent to identify the sounds their child is not saying correctly. See below:


I explain that the sounds in the first line are the earliest developing sounds and if they have circled any sounds in this line that is usually the best place to start. Then we proceed to write any sounds circled from the first line at the top of the Articulation Goal Tracker as sounds to target first.

Likewise, sounds on the second line are sounds that come in later and are sounds we usually target after all the sounds on the first line have been mastered. Then we write on our Articulation Goal Tracker any sounds that have been circled on this line to be practiced after we have mastered sounds on the first line.

Finally, sounds on the last line are sounds that are generally developed and mastered at an older age than the sounds on the first two lines. Therefore, we usually target these sounds after sounds on the first two lines have been mastered. Any sounds circled on this line we write on our Articulation Goal Tracker to be targeted after we have mastered the sounds from the first two lines.

Please note that this is intended to be used as a guide for selecting speech goals and that it is by no means the rule. Speech Pathologists look at other factors besides just age of acquisition to determine what sounds to target first. If you have any questions or concerns about selecting goals for your child please refer to a certified Speech-Language Pathologist to guide you through setting your articulation goals.

Tracking Goals:

Once I have outlined my speech goals for a student I use my articulation goal tracking sheet to track my student’s progress and to keep track of what goals I want to work on next.

Below is an example of my Articulation Goal Tracker. I have created a fictitious student named Ella Johnson to provide you an example of how I use this sheet to both set and track goals for articulation therapy.

If you have questions about how to practice the goals I have written in the left column (isolation, initial syllables, initial words, initial sentences, initial stories etc.) please refer to my post “The Process of Articulation Therapy” to help guide you.

I have also included my Articulation Therapy Log (see below) that I use alongside the Articulation Goal Tracker. I use the Articulation Therapy Log to keep track of what I work on in every articulation therapy session. As reflected in the example below I write the date of the therapy session, the articulation goal that is being targeted and how the child performed on that goal during that session. I also include anything else that might be significant like what I sent for homework or what therapy techniques were helpful during that session. When a student passes an articulation goal I write it in the Articulation Therapy Log and then I record the date on the Articulation Goal Tracker.

You can download the Articulation Goal Tracker and Articulation Therapy Log on the worksheets page, by clicking on the top bar labeled “Articulation Data Collection Forms”. These two sheets together have made setting articulation goals and tracking their progress a lot easier for me. I hope they make setting and tracking goals easier for you too so we can all focus on the important stuff, helping our children speak clearly. Thanks for reading! I hope you all have a happy and productive school year!

 

Heidi Hanks, MS, CCC-SLP, lives in Utah with her husband and (soon to be) 4 children.  She graduated from Utah State University in 2000 with her Master’s degree in Communicative Disorders. She worked in early intervention for 3 years and has been doing private therapy from her home for the last 7 years. She also writes the blog Mommy Speech Therapy, which is aimed at helping parents take a more active role in helping their children with speech and communication development. Heidi can also be found on Twitter @mommy_slp.

Clinical Doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology–Good Idea or Not?

The August 2, 2011 issue of the ASHA Leader featured an article titled “Clinical Doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology: Philosophy, Implementation, and Success at the University of Pittsburgh.” The authors explore whether a new doctor of clinical science program at the University of Pittsburgh the answer to the increasing depth and breadth of SLP practice.

Apparently this is an issue that stirs up a lot of feelings among SLPs; when we posted a link to the article on ASHA’s Facebook page, more than 35 people weighed in on the issue. The article has also inspired several blog posts.

You can read the article on the ASHA website and add your own thoughts to the discussion.

Forging Ahead–A Private Practice Checklist

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Photo by Diego3336

(This post originally appeared on Activity Tailor)

Hooray! You’ve decided to take the plunge and start working for yourself. Now it’s time for some organization:

  1. Proper mind set: Grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Dream! What do you want out of this venture right now? What do you want in 10 years? Having some sort of framework for your business will help you make a lot of the decisions that lie ahead. Hey while you’re at it—write those dreams down!
  2. State license: I’m assuming your CCCs are all in order, but depending on your state and/or previous place of employment you may not be licensed by your state speech-language-hearing board. A quick phone call can save you future heartache. Most state boards will simply require proof of your degree, ASHA certification and yearly dues, but it may take some processing time. Also, be sure to find out if there are different ceu requirements. In my state, I was able to file a petition so my state and national continuing ed intervals ran concurrently.
  3. Pick an Entity: This is a fancy name for deciding how your business will be set up. You may choose to have your business income show directly on your personal income tax (sole proprietor) or establish a LLC and have the business as a completely separate enterprise. This is something to discuss with your accountant to determine the best decision for you. Invest in advice!
  4. City license/permit: I filed my “dba” (doing business as) name at the register of deeds and then applied for a city business license. Each year I’m required to calculate my gross income from services and/or goods and pay fees to the city. A dba might be “Kim Lewis, M.Ed. CCC-SLP” or “Activity Tailor”. Consider your decision. Your personal name might be very recognizable, but will it limit you if you hope to add clinicians or goods one day? Should you check if it’s an available domain name?
  5. Business banking account: You’ll want to keep your business transactions (income and payments) separate from your personal accounts. In all likelihood a checking account will suffice. However, if budgeting is not a strong suit you may want a savings account attached as well. Remember, you’ll be responsible for all your taxes at the end of the year. Transfer the estimated amount (based on that month’s earnings) on a monthly or quarterly basis if you think this will be a problem otherwise.
  6. Employer Identification Number (EIN): You or your accountant will need to apply for this with the IRS even if you are your sole employee.
  7. Malpractice insurance: You may already have this even if your employer provided some, but now that you work on your own, make sure you are covered. ASHA provides discounted rates that are very reasonable.
  8. Pricing research: Call around to some local practices and get information on pricing for both evaluations and therapy. Make sure you establish a rate that’s commensurate—don’t try to undercut the market; we all pay for that! Work out a fee schedule for various evaluations (i.e. screening vs. full eval) and therapy sessions (i.e. 30 or 45 min).
  9. Determine your wage: Be disciplined and set yourself an hourly wage. Just remember, in private practice you are only paid for patient contact hours. ***when I began to explain this item in detail, it became too huge to include here. I will post this separately in the next couple of days.
  10. Create forms and policies: OK, this is the part I dislike most, but it still needs to be dealt with—the paperwork. (*** Again, this is a line item in which the explanation went out of control. I’ll list what you need here, but will post in more detail within the week.) You will need at least the following: fee schedule, billing policy, cancellation policy, privacy policies, case history, insurance claim forms, treatment notes, monthly progress notes, evaluation summary form.
  11. Marketing Materials: At a minimum, you’ll need a business card with your contact info and perhaps space for noting appointment times, but you might also consider envelopes, letterhead or a marketing brochure. A local print shop can assist with a logo. ASHA.org has predesigned stationary that you add your info to for a reasonable price.
  12. Therapy/Evaluation Materials: This can quickly become an expensive endeavor. Tests and their forms can be quite pricey (anyone with great ideas for scoring bargains—let us know!) I would suggest purchasing the 2-3 you’ll need most frequently and adding as you see fit. Therapy materials are usually more economical and, again, you can add as you go.
  13. Make a Plan: Brainstorm some ideas for finding clients. This might include contacting local schools, pediatrician’s/doctor’s offices, or local social agencies. An ad in a local magazine might be helpful. Offer to give an educational talk at a mom’s group or senior center.
  14. Find Support: You’ll have some exciting and scary days ahead. Share it! Another private therapist willing to mentor you would be fabulous, but don’t underestimate an encouraging friend. For me, a positive attitude with limited knowledge would help me more that an experienced, but dour, practitioner.

Ask questions and good luck!

 

Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.

Interview Questions for Pediatric SLPs on the Job Market

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Photo by bpsusf

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  –Theodore Roosevelt

I’m moving out of state soon, and therefore recently engaged in the dreaded job search in a new city.  Because I’m an over-planner, I had a fourteen  interviews (yikes!) before I finally found my dream job.  I was recently telling my graduate student intern about the interview experience, and it occurred to me that maybe other grad students and job-seeking SLPs might be interested in the types of questions typically asked during job interviews.  I actually wrote down the questions I could remember just after each interview, so I could share them with my intern.  (Yup, I’m nerdy in so many ways, even job interviewing!)

So, here are the questions I could remember from all my interviews, combined.   Of course, I’m a pediatric SLP, so most of these questions apply to interviews with pediatric providers, but they might help you prepare in general for other interviews, as well.

Organizational Skills

1.  How do you keep up with due dates and important to-do items?

2.  How do you organize therapy data and session notes?

3.  How do you stay organized?

4.  How do you keep data during a therapy session with a busy client?

Theory

1.  What’s your philosophy for serving preschool students for speech/language?

2.  What model do you currently use to serve students?  (pull out, push in, inclusion, collaborative, coteaching, coaching, consultation?)

3.  What model do you use to serve students with autism?

4.  What program/model do you use to serve students with articulation/phonology disorders?

5.  How would you approach serving children with multiple special needs in a self-contained classroom setting?

6.  Do you think you can make change in the learning trajectory for a child even without parent involvement?

7.  What are the most important things you think teachers and parents need to know about language to make a difference for children?

8.  What do you think causes the achievement gap for minority students we serve?

Experience

1.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

2.  Tell me about your current work setting.

3.  What social skills resources do you use for children with autism spectrum disorders?

4.   Tell me about the most difficult client you’ve ever had and how you worked through it.

5.  Tell me about the hardest therapy session you’ve ever had and how you made it work.

6.   What experience do you have with children with  __(whatever disorder the site specializes in serving)__?

7.   What AAC/Assistive Technology experience do you have?

8.  How do you involve parents and teachers in treatment?

9.  How would you deal with a parent who questions your therapy practices?

Personal Qualities

1.  What are your strengths?

2.  What are your weaknesses, and how do you overcome them?

3.  What prompted you to want a career in speech language pathology?

4.  Who are your mentors, and how have they guided you in your career path?

Goals/Job Outcome

1.  What are you looking for in a job?

2.  Describe your perfect/dream job.

3.  What’s most important to you in your job hunt?

4.  What are your favorite settings/special populations to work with?

5.  What age group do you most enjoy working with?

6.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Knowledge Base

1.  What continuing education courses have you taken in the past 2 years?

2.  Are you certified in any therapy program such as Hanen, Floortime, ABA, Lindamood Bell, etc?

3.  Do you regularly attend ASHA, and which courses do you typically go to?

4.  Tell me what you think the current events/issues are in speech-language pathology.

5.  How do you usually come up with goals/objectives for clients?

6.  Describe the steps you’d take to conduct an evaluation (both quantitative and qualitative).

7.  What do you see as your role in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process in a school system?

8.  How would you keep your caseload manageable?

9.  What do you see as your role in regard to reading/writing skills for elementary school students?

10.  What strategies/materials/activities do you use regularly for children with _______?  (autism, social skills deficits, Down Syndrome, apraxia, feeding disorders, etc.)

11.  Describe a typical activity you would use to address receptive and expressive language goals for a group of children.

12.  How do you typically coach a teacher or caregiver to help facilitate positive change in their teaching behavior?

Your Turn!

Also, I think it’s smart to have a list of a few questions you are going to ask your interviewers, so you don’t feel put on the spot when they ask you whether you have any questions.  Some basic ideas are:

1.  What’s the typical caseload?

2.  What are the typical hours?

3.  What paperwork/documentation am I expected to complete on a regular basis?

4.  What types of support for continuing education do you offer?

5.  What technology resources are available to me here?  (ex:  laptop, AAC devices, iTouch, iPad, etc.)

I think that preparing my responses to possible questions ahead of time, and actually saying them out loud to myself or someone else, really helps me reduce my stress level during actual interviews.   I hope this is helpful to other new or job-hunting SLPs, as well!

 Are there any questions I’ve left out?  Please leave a comment if you think of any others!


T.J. Ragan, MA, CCC – SLP
, is a speech language pathologist, wife, and mother who lives with her husband, their four year old daughter, and their two dachshunds in Durham, NC.  She works for Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools and The Cheshire Center and writes a blog about happiness.

Resume Preparation Tips

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Photo by bpsusf

(This blog article has been adapted for ASHASphere from the “PediaStaff New Graduate Guide.”  Click here to download the entire guidebook.)

A resume is a “living” document that will grow with each new job and professional experience. That said, it should concisely and effectively describe and sell your most relevant credentials. An employer will spend very little time reviewing your resume, so it must be clear and targeted for the type of job you are applying for. You may have more than one resume with different objectives. Don’t be afraid to “toot your own horn” because if you don’t, nobody will!  Beware of typos and grammar errors as these will leap right off the page.  Remember, this may be the only time you get to make an impression on an employer!

Before Writing the Resume:

  • Compile your educational experience. This will include all degrees you have completed or are in the process of completing, as well as relevant courses and seminars.
  • Catalog all your work experience such as your clinicals, therapy-related jobs, and positions working with children (special needs as well as typical). Also include jobs which demonstrate your leadership and interpersonal skills whether they are speech related or not.
  • Make a list of your honors, scholarships, academic and community achievements.
  • Put together names of all of the professional and community organizations to which you belong.
  • Choose three references who will speak highly of you (check with them first). Get their full names, titles, phone numbers, and email addresses. Also ask them how they prefer to be contacted.
  • Create a record of publications and papers you have written and presentations you have given.

Writing the Resume

  • At the top of the resume put your name, address, phone number(s) and email address. Only include references to blogs or social networking sites if they are exclusively used for work. We also recommend that you open a free account just for your job search. Gmail or Yahoo are great for this.  Also, make sure the voicemail message on the phone number you have listed is clear, professional, and states your name.
  • Declare your objective, the type of job you are looking for, and the population you wish to serve. This should be short and general. Do not close the door on any type of job you might have an interest in. Create a second resume if you find that your possible career objectives don’t work well in one document.
  • Create your educational information section. Working with most recent first, list the schools, city, state, year of graduation and the degree earned (or expect to earn).
  • Write your experience/work history. List this experience in reverse chronological order. Include title of job and use descriptive action words to describe your duties and responsibilities. Examples are “achieved,” “communicated,” “recommended,” “provided,” etc. Avoid passive verbs like “have written” or “was selected.”
  • Add a section for publications or papers you have presented, if relevant.
  • Create a section for any honors you have achieved. These honors should include academic, civic, and any other awards you may have received in the community.

After Writing the Resume

  • Show the completed document to a trusted friend, professor, or peer who can proofread it, look for things you may have missed, and help you with any areas of confusion.

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

Broken Cell Phones Get Students Talking in Speech Therapy

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Photo by chrisdlugosz

(This post originally appeared on the ArticBrain blog)

I’ll be the first to admit it: I am addicted to my cell phone just as much as the next person. Those pocket sized machines help us to talk with family, text message friends, surf the web, and so much more, but what do we do when our beloved cell phone bites the dust? Most people simply throw the broken device away in the trash. Well, I am here to tell you to save that lifeless cell phone because I guarantee it can bring some liveliness into your next speech therapy session. Don’t believe me?! Well, all you have to do is use your imagination and call someone famous!

Magic cell phone!

Inform your student that the broken cell phone you have is actually a MAGIC cell phone that can call ANYONE in the entire world! Ask them to call one of their favorite movie stars, rock stars, or anyone on television. Remind them to use appropriate social language (introduce yourself, be polite, etc.). This is a great activity that encourages verbalization from all students in a very natural and non-intrusive way (yippie!).

Give details!

Ask your student to name who their chosen famous person is. What does the person look like? Where is the person from? What movies is the person in? What songs does the person sing? All of these questions help the child to practice describing a person who is not immediately in the classroom. At times, this can be really tricky for children enrolled in speech therapy. Feel free to jump on the internet to look up the biography of the famous person if your student gets stuck (thank goodness for Google!).

Practice sounds!

If your student is working on articulation, it is amazingly easy to incorporate this activity to meet his/her pronunciation goals and objectives. Push your students to use as many target sound-specific words as possible while conversing with the famous person “on the other line.” Let the student know that you spoke with the famous person before hand and he/she will be listening very closely for any misarticulations (better bring that “A” game!).

Lots more!

There are just SO many different directions that one can take this specific speech therapy idea.

  • Are you trying to promoting turn-taking skills? You can with this activity!
  • Are you trying to work on pronouns such as you, I, me, and yours? This activity has you covered!
  • How about working on proper volume and increasing your student’s loudness? Oh, this is the perfect activity for you because if the person on the other end of the phone can’t hear you, he/she just might hang up!

So who do you think your students are going to want to call? Who would you want to call? How on Earth did we ever survive without cell phones before? It would be fantastic to hear from you. Please let me know if you gave this broken cell phone idea a go. Have a great speech therapy session!

 

Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP (www.erikxraj.com) is a speech-language pathologist who has provided direct care to pediatric, adolescent, and adult clients who exhibit a broad spectrum of communication difficulties. He is presently pursuing his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders as a Thomas C. Rumble University Graduate Fellowship recipient at Wayne State University. Erik is also the founder of ArticBrain, LLC (www.articbrain.com), a speech therapy product development company.

Improving Pragmatic and Social Cognitive Abilities of Children with Psychiatric Disturbances

“You have to come and observe him! I know the report we got from his previous school district said his language skills were average, but something is really off.” These were the words I heard from one of the classroom teachers, at my work, which just happens to be an out-of-district school program within a psychiatric day treatment facility. In our transitional program we work with children who, due to their complex diagnoses (e.g., personality, mood, anxiety, and attachment disorders), frequently cannot be accommodated within their local school district until their behaviors can be managed more effectively.

So, I set up a series of observation times for the child in question, a bright seven year-old boy named J.R. Before I did that, I carefully reviewed his records, particularly a speech and language report. A solid language test was administered, scores were explained appropriately, child did not qualify for speech-language services, end of story – but is it? After barely a 10 minute observation of JR in the recreation room, I certainly saw what the teacher meant. Despite possessing average language skills and intelligence, JR didn’t know the first thing about playing and interacting with his peers. He attempted to join games at the most inappropriate times, he tried to dominate every single conversation, and when his peers finally let him join in, he threw a tantrum when he lost a board game. Even when his peers initiated conversations with him, his responses were frequently tangential and his interests were too immature for his age, so other children quickly lost interest in further interacting with him.

To many of us in the field these are all clear signs of social pragmatic language deficits. Formal and informal testing in this area confirmed my initial impressions. The above behaviors interfere significantly with JR’s academic success in the classroom and with his social interactions in school setting, yet somehow in his language assessment report, the social pragmatic language component was not addressed.

JR’s case is not unique. Many of us routinely assess and treat social pragmatic deficits of children on the autistic spectrum. Yet, quite often, I receive speech and language evaluations on a child, diagnosed with emotional, behavioral, and psychiatric disturbances (classified as Emotionally Disturbed or Other Health Impaired in the IEP), which do not include pragmatic language assessments nor make any requests with respect to future assessment or remediation of difficulties in this area. Yet, it’s clearly evident that the child strongly needs these skills for both social and academic success.

It is very important to understand that children with psychiatric diagnoses need more than just medicine and behavior management to make them better. They need to gain the appropriate vocabulary and language abilities to talk about emotions (own and others), understand verbal and nonverbal social cues, as well as routinely engage in perspective taking, all of which, we speech-language pathologists can teach them. More awareness and advocacy is needed among speech-language professionals to understand that given appropriate goal design, we can effectively address social cognitive abilities and positively improve these children’s functioning in both school and social settings.

 

Tatyana Elleseff, MA CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist. Presently she works for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and has a private practice in Somerset, NJ. She is a New York University Master’s Level graduate with Bilingual Certification from Columbia University. She is licensed by the state of New Jersey and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence from ASHA. She specializes in working with bilingual, multicultural as well as internationally adopted children with complex medical, developmental, neurogenic, psychogenic, and acquired communication disorders.

Recommending Monolingualism to Multilinguals – Why, and Why Not

Multilingual christmas lights in Barcelona


Photo by Oh-Barcelona.com

In cases of suspected or confirmed clinical disorder among bilingual/multilingual children, one common recommendation is to have the children “switch to one language.” This advice comes both from monolingual SLPs, who are trained in and for monolingual settings, and from multilingual SLPs, including those working in multilingual contexts. I would like to offer a few thoughts on the practical feasibility of this advice, the reasons that may motivate it, and whether those reasons match what we know about multilingualism and speech-language disorders.

Recommending monolingualism to multilinguals seems to draw on a conviction that multilingualism either causes or worsens speech-language and related disorders or, conversely, that monolingualism either blocks or alleviates them. Speech disorders (such as stuttering), language disorders (such as SLI), and developmental disorders (such as autism) do affect language, in that linguistic development relates to physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. But language development can be typical or atypical regardless of the number of languages in a child’s repertoire. Speech-language and developmental clinical conditions affect multilinguals and monolinguals alike, which means that there is no correlation between multilingualism, or monolingualism, and disorder. In the absence of a correlation, there can be no legitimate conclusion that using one language vs. using more than one has predictable effects upon disorder. The unwarranted conviction that number of languages is a relevant factor of speech-language disorder rests on a number of beliefs, as follows.

First, the belief that healthy linguistic and related development can only be achieved in a single language. Multilingual children naturally develop linguistically in all the languages that they need to use for everyday purposes. Cognitive, social and emotional development follows suit, through each of the contexts in which the languages of a multilingual are relevant. Multilinguals, big and small, use each of their languages in different ways. This is in fact why they are multilinguals: if a single language served all their purposes, they would be monolinguals.

Each of the languages of a multilingual naturally reflects the specific uses that it serves, and each will develop accordingly, at its own pace. If a child uses, say, one language with mum, another one with dad, and yet another one in school, each language will naturally show evidence of mum-related, dad-related and school-related accent, vocabulary, grammar and pragmatics. Having different words or a different number of words in each language, for example, or preferring to use one language rather than another for specific topics or with different people, is typical of multilingualism, not a sign of atypical linguistic competence. A less developed language of a multilingual is therefore not a symptom of a clinical condition such as ‘language delay’, but reflects instead less use of that language than of another. If there are concerns about the development of a particular language of a multilingual, the child may be appropriately referred to a language tutor, not to an SLP.

Second, the belief that using more than one language results in diminished proficiency both in each language and in other proficiency. This belief draws on subtractive views of the human brain, which have it as a computer-like processor featuring limited storage capacity, organised into computer-like modules and processing modes. On this view, ‘brain space’ allocated to each language disrupts other brain space, by encroaching upon it in ways similar to zero-sum situations, where the gains and losses of one ‘module’ exactly match the losses and gains of another, respectively. Computer analogies of the human brain gained popularity by the middle of last century, but current findings about inherent brain plasticity prove their inadequacy to model brain organisation, activity and power.

Third, the belief that using one particular language in one setting will promote development of that language in other settings. The recommendation to switch to one language often means ‘switch to exclusive use of the mainstream language at home.’ Even in cases where it might be viable to change or amend the home language practices in which a child has been brought up, switching to a mainstream language at home, or making it the only home language, will not necessarily impact uses of that language elsewhere, for example in school. The converse is also true: academic uses of a language, say, do not automatically transfer to home uses of the same language, because these uses belong to different registers.

“Register” is a term used in linguistics to describe the differential ways in which we all use our languages to fit specific contexts and specific people. Monolingual children (and adults) switch among the registers that they have learnt to be appropriate at home, in school, at work, or with peers, juniors and elders. Multilinguals do likewise: they switch register in each of their languages, in order to match the participants and the context of an interaction in a particular language, and they switch language, again where participants and context so require. The ability to switch uses of language appropriately constitutes proof of linguistic competence, because it shows understanding of how different registers and/or different languages serve different purposes. A home language, or a home register, develops for home-use purposes, which do not and cannot match academic and other uses of it. The way to promote development of languages or registers in a specific context is to use them in that context.

Finally, the belief that language disorder is best addressed through a single language of intervention. The mainstream language favoured by recommendations of monolingualism often coincides with the language of education, that the child may, in addition, happen to share with the clinician. This raises the question of whether the recommendations are indeed meant to favour monolingualism, or to favour monolingualism in a particular language, the language in which assessment instruments are likely to be more readily available. Whichever the case may be, current research on clinical work with multilingual children shows that intervention which targets the whole of a child’s linguistic repertoire increases both the chances and the pace of recovery. Addressing linguistic repertoires for purposes of intervention makes good overall sense, in that language disorders affect the whole of a child’s linguistic repertoire, regardless of the number of languages involved. Diagnosis must take the whole child into account, so that intervention can start from where the child’s abilities are, whether these abilities are monolingual or multilingual.

Depending on the context of specific interactions, typical monolinguals and multilinguals alike make proficient use of their linguistic repertoires, which means differential use of linguistic resources. The whole linguistic repertoire of a monolingual child translates into resources drawn from a single language, but the whole linguistic repertoire of a multilingual child does not. Beliefs and convictions to the contrary, such as the ones sketched above, rest on a misconception of monolingualism as “norm” of language use, which has spawned related misconceptions that take proficiency in a single language for linguistic health, and lack of proficiency in a single language for symptom of language disorder. Being multilingual involves differential proficiency in more than one language, whose interplay with social, cognitive and emotional development can only be ascertained from observation of the child’s abilities in each appropriate context.

The take-home message that I would like to leave here is that multilingualism is neither a disorder nor a factor of disorder. In cases of suspected or confirmed clinical disorder among bilingual/multilingual children, switching to a single language will not address the disorder. It will simply create a monolingual child with a disorder.

 

Madalena Cruz-Ferreira, PhD in Linguistics and Phonetics (University of Manchester, UK), researches multilingualism and child language. One section of her book Multilingual Norms addresses multilingual clinical assessment. Her blog Being Multilingual deals with the use of several languages at home, in school and in clinic.