How to Choose an SLP for a Bilingual Child
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Professional Practice Issue: Bilingual Service Delivery
Per the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) code of ethics, it is important to be aware of the SLP’s cultural and competence when working with patients from multilingual and multicultural backgrounds. This often requires specialized training in providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Per ASHA, “When a professional is not proficient in the language used by the client, family, or research subject, a suitable interpreter should be used. The use of interpreters and others who are proficient in the language of the persons served does not negate the ultimate responsibility of the professional in diagnosing and/or treating the individual or conducting research” (“Issues in Ethics: Cultural and Linguistic Competence”). Additionally, when appropriate services are not provided it “... may lead to misdiagnosis, which in turn feeds into larger problems, such as disproportionality concerns in schools and health care disparities in hospitals and long-term care facilities” (ASHA- “Bilingual Service Delivery”). The gold standard for evaluation and treatment of speech and language disorders is a licensed speech language pathologist with the ability to communicate with the patient in their native language or preferred manner of communication, either as a speaker themselves or via a qualified interpreter. They must then be able to assess the process of language development, patterns of language loss, and the influence of dual language acquisition in order to identify the presence of a language difference or a disorder across all languages spoken and/or methods of communication, create an effective treatment plan, and communicate the results to the patient.
The national association of speech-language pathologists and audiologists issued guidance in the treatment of bilingual patients. When available, patients who have access to an SLP who speaks the patient’s language and has been trained in identifying the unique markers of a true language disorder in bilingual children should be referred to them. Referrals to untrained SLPs can often lead to misdiagnosis.