Assessment of Speech and Language Skills in Bilingual Children: An Holistic Approach


  • Helen Grech Centre for Language and Cognition (CLCG), Faculty of Arts & Research School for Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences (BCN), University Medical Centre; University of Groningen
  • Barbara Dodd


A review of recent research and professional guidelines on the assessment of bilingual children with communication disorders identified some emerging themes. All the languages that a child is exposed to (including the home language/s) require assessment since proficiency across the different languages used reflects the child’s ability to maintain social contacts and access education. Language mixing is a natural, typical and fundamental aspect of bilingual discourse that has no negative effect on bilingual language acquisition. Limited data on normal bilingual language acquisition makes differential diagnosis between language disorder and language difference very difficult. Consequently, bilingual children are at risk for being misdiagnosed as having an impairment. Assessment strategies are described that provide alternative approaches to the use of normative data for the identification of communication disorders. Research is needed to determine the effect of language pair and language learning context on bilingual language acquisition and to ensure valid identification of bilingual children with communication disorder.