Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
O' Toole, C. and Hickey, T.;
Child Language Seminar
Assessing and diagnosing language impairment in bilingual children: A minority language study.
Newcastle, UK
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields


This presentation describes a qualitative study investigating the experiences of speech and language therapists and psychologists in providing services to Irish-speaking bilingual children in Ireland. Eight speech and language therapists and three psychologists took part in semi-structured interviews exploring the nature of bilingual language impairment, current practices and needs for these children. Preliminary analysis of the themes identified that parents often dictated the language in which they required intervention, resulting in a monolingual model of service, usually through the majority language. Other themes that emerged were the growing influence of English as the children became older which affected both attitudes to the minority Irish language, as well as the content and structure of the language itself. A major issue for professionals was the lack of standardised tests or information on normative development patterns against which to assess children, accompanied by a lack of resources for intervention. Because of this, therapists stated that they tend to resort to translating established English tests to Irish, since the criterion used for qualification for services requires children to have a total language score more than two standard deviations below the mean on a standardised language assessment. Furthermore, children with SLI are entitled to receive three-hours per week of individual resource teaching if they present a non-verbal IQ of 90 or more. However, as the options for psychological assessment in Irish are also very limited, these children tend to be assessed either only through English, or using non-standardised translations of English tests, and so a true picture of their abilities is not achieved. The professionals expressed their frustration at these practices, but stated that they had no choice, as the children needed access to resources and the system requires standardised measurement. The implications for service provision for bilingual populations in general are outlined.


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