Evaluating English Language Learners for Speech and Language Services

A few weeks ago I got some new information about clients I will be evaluating this month. I found myself opening my ESL file on my computer to see what information I had about determining difference and disorder for multicultural students. My second stop was Smart Speech Therapy, where Tatyana blogs about a variety of these issues.

While browsing posts on her page, I decided that two documents looked like just what I was looking for! Tatyana kindly agreed to let me review them for you today on SRN. The Multicultural Assessment and Treatment Bundle features two presentations.

Language Difference vs. Language Disorder: Assessment & Intervention Strategies for SLPs Working with Bilingual Children. 

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The Difference versus disorder packets aims to  “discuss how to provide effective evidence based practice assessments to bilingual children in order to differentiate English Language Learners from bilingual children with true language disorders. It will also offer recommendations regarding therapeutic interventions with bilingual children with language impairments.”

The packet is 129 slides with learning outcomes that include:

Describe the sequence of typical bilingual language development

Explain the process of second language acquisition in children

Contrast how communication differences and communication disorders manifest in bilingual children

Discuss research driven evidence based practices in assessment of bilingual children

Demonstrate potential limitations of standardized testing

Explain concerns regarding standard score reporting for bilingual Limited English Proficient (LEP) children

Illustrate how to use alternative, non standardized methods to reduce assessment bias

Describe research driven evidence based practices in treatment of bilingual children with confirmed speech-language disorders

What I loved most about Tatyana’s Difference/Disorder packet is the evidence based refresher on language development in bilingual children. I’m so excited to have this on my shelf! I will be able to pull it out and cite search as needed when assessments include bilingual children. I’m putting some of the things I learned in bullet points below.


In Simultaneous Language Learners:

*If bilingual children are mixing grammatical systems, they are not developing within normal bilingual limits and may require therapeutic intervention

*Monolinguals compared to Bilinguals: Temporary transfer errors from L1-L2 are possible but the timing for language milestones and the sequence of development are similar.

*Dual language learning does NOT cause confusion/language delays in young children (Espinosa, 2008; DeHouwer, 2009; Paradis, et al., 2011)

**Temporary transfer errors from L1-L2 are possible but the timing for language milestones and the sequence of development are similar

In Sequential Language Learners:

*Areas that are supportive to two cultures and languages such as Canada (English/French) are likely to achieve high degree of bilingual proficiency. In areas where the language and culture of the group is less supported and valued, such as Spanish immigrant families in the US, many more language enriched opportunities will be required to become proficient.

* In older L2 learnings, quality of input and opportunities for L2 interaction mediate second language outcomes (Dixon et al., 2012)


When assessing SPEECH:

Determine phonemic influences on English: Perform contrastive analysis

Do these sounds exist in English and vise versa?

Similar sounds across two languages may not be used the same way (only used in WF vs. all word positions)

Tatyana includes link to sound difference in specific languages within the resource.

When assessing LANGUAGE:

There will be characteristics that overlap in both language (Rosenberry-McKibben 1995) such as attention and memory deficits. Short sentence length, over reliance on gestures, low verbal output, grammatical errors, low vocabulary and poor comprehension will be present in both language in a disorder.

Choosing Tests

I thought Tatyana brought up some nice points about assessment. For example:

-When using caregiver reporting using the REEL-3, you are assuming that all cultures teach specific skills such as labeling while meaningfully interacting with their children.

-EOWPVT includes some normative data from other cultures. The normative data for the Spanish version used only children from Mexico.

Several other assessments are reviewed with concerns discussed.

Dynamic Assessments are recommended and discussed. Links and references to ASHA are included. Tatyana lists the steps she uses in deciding which assessment to use. Remember that often standardized scores are not valid for our bilingual learners. Although your school or state may require  you to submit a standardized score, that may not be a true reflection of skill. I love this disclaimer she included to be used in your reports:

“Note: The following test/s __________were normed on typical English

speaking children. Testing materials are not available in standardized form for

child‟s unique bilingual/bicultural background. In accordance with IDEA 2004

(The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) [20 U.S.C..1414(3)],

official use of standard scores for this child would be inaccurate and misleading

so the results reported are presented in descriptive form. Raw scores are

provided here only for comparison with future performance.”


Approaches are included for pages 103-

*Genesee & Nicoladis., 2006 found that gains transfer from L1 to L2 for vocabulary

* Language treatment in L1 for children whose L2 skills are weaker will create quicker results than beginning treatment in L2 (Esquivel & Yoshida, 1985)

*When providing intervention follow a hierarchy of skill attainment and attempt to incorporate multicultural/multilingual practices

Overall this packet provides the perfect refresher or introduction to  assessment and treatment for SLPs. I appreciate the large amount of research references in one place. The assessment considerations are the most valuable to me as I begin a new assignment as the evaluator for my preschool position. The presentation is easy to read and also cites the conflicting research in a few topics, which I find helpful!

Improvements: The major component missing in this packet for me is a full list of citations. Tatyana includes the references throughout but does not include the references page that would list the actual articles in which the information is gathered. If I am going to refer to cited sources I need the full references page included. The download reads like a powerpoint presentation throughout. There were some topics I wish were expanded. The bullet points are great, but on a few slides I didn’t clearly understand the point. A simple paragraph would have been clearer. I think the movement between information topics is a little hard to understand, so maybe a few extra slides that explain transitions would help!

Impact of Cultural and Linguistic Variables On Speech-Language Services

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This smaller packet  focuses on how cultural differences impact the interactions and services we provide. “This presentation provides an overview of how cultural and linguistic variables impact speech language service provision to children from bilingual and multicultural households. It covers differences between individualistic and collective cultures, cultural values towards play, differences in child-rearing practices, cultural perceptions and beliefs about disability, as well as cultural communication differences. The impact on learning of socioeconomic status as well as parental level of education is also discussed.”

Learning outcomes include:

Discuss how cultural values impact parental attitudes to assessment and intervention

List how cultural differences impact caregiver involvement and intervention expectations

Describe how levels of maternal education impact communication development

Explain impact of socioeconomic status on cognitive achievement

Summarize how cultural views on disability affect perceptions of impairment

Topics include:

-Communication Styles

-Values and who they relate to parenting styles

-Cultural impact of develop on topics such as play, narratives, and type of communication.

-Socioeconomic status and its impact on development

-Cultural Views on Disability

Overall I loved this packet. The appendix contains a chart that includes all the discussed elements in an easy to read format. I love that I can quickly refer to the chart when  new students is referred to me. It may help me consider some of the ways in which I approach the parents during assessment. I love the full references pages where I can find extra reading!

The only improvements I can suggest for this section are some example scenarios and ways to deal with it. For example, Tatyana discussed some cultures that do not normally give many private details. How could an SLP conducting an evaluation encourage full disclosure? These are difficult topics, so some examples would be even more helpful.

Special THANKS to Tatyana for allowing me to review her packets. If you find yourself in my position, moving into a position where you are in contact  with many bilingual children, you can can grab her The Multicultural Assessment and Treatment Bundle for sale on her website. I learned a lot and you will too!

Tatyana wants to give someone the chance to win a copy of their own! Just enter below by using rafflecopter. I’ll draw a winner on Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tatyana Elleseff MA CCC-SLP is a bilingual SLP with a full time hospital affiliation as well as private practice in Central, NJ. She specializes in working with multicultural, internationally and domestically adopted as well as at-risk children with complex communication disorders. For more information visit her BLOG, STORE, or follow her Facebook page.   

Lovely comments

  1. 1

    Carolynn says

    I have only a handful of bilingual assessments a year which would make Tatyana’s information so valuable!

  2. 2

    Shannon Giles says

    Great information! We have a few ESL students come through for evaluations each year and I feel like I struggle each time. Would love to have some more information to go to in order to improve my evaluations.

  3. 3

    Lauren Bergstrom says

    Almost half of my pre-k caseload were English language learners (anticipating the same for this year)! I was also a CF last year and I went back and forth about buying this presentation bundle…but ended up not! Thankful for your review, and would love to have the information in the presentations!

  4. 4

    Kristine says

    I don’t have any ESL students on my caseload. However, another SLP friend and I were just discussing ESL issues recently. We were talking about a child who had been adopted from another country and whether or not he might qualify for speech and language therapy.

  5. 5

    Lana S. says

    About 25% of my caseload are ESL students. This information would be so great to have!

  6. 6

    Adrienne Cole says

    I am about to start my CF year and having any additional helpful materials would be invaluable, particularly in a district with ESL and bilingual children. What an informative post and great products!

  7. 7

    Heather Osterhouse says

    Very helpful information! I am “new” to the school system this year and am anticipating a large number of children who are bilingual on my caseload. This review of the presentation is great. Evidence-based research always helps when assessing and working with parents and their children.

  8. 8


    We don’t have many children who are bilingual in my school setting at present, however there are a few who have visited who may attend. If they do attend, they’d be on my caseload, so it would be a huge help to have this information at the ready. Plus; I found bilingualism and SLCN fascinating at uni! Thanks for the chance, as always :)

  9. 9


    I’ll be at a different school in my district next year – with one of the highest EL populations. This would be super helpful!

  10. 10

    Molly Weinandt says

    My community has a very large Hispanic population and over 75% of my students are bilingual.

  11. 12


    The majority of my caseload have English as a second language. I am constantly researching for information on the cultures. Our speech department discusses this issue often to help each other and to be consistent in our evaluations.

  12. 13

    Kristie says

    Like you said, this is great to have this information in one place! I would love to have for reference at work.

  13. 14

    Anne Spitler-Kashuba says

    Great reminders from grad school! I was recently hired by a rural school district with at least 60% or more Spanish speaking students. My caseload appears to have approximately 70%+ who are dual and sequential language learners.

  14. 15

    Maria Rodriguez says

    I work with a large multi-cultural population in NJ. There is definitely a need for more information and advocacy in multicultural issues for assessment and intervention purposes!

  15. 16

    Connie says

    I work with about 20 second language learners… I’m so lucky to have such a diverse caseload. I would LOVE this product!!

  16. 18

    Jordan says

    Currently the number of second language learners on my caseload is 5. I would love to have this information as I am sure that number will only increase! Thanks for the review and giveaway opportunity!

  17. 20

    Lauren schultz says

    I have quite a few students that are in the Hong culture on my caseload. I also have one Spanish speaking student whom I am considering dismissing this coming year so I am interested in the assessment part of this article, even informal ideas.

  18. 21

    Carol says

    I don’t currently have any ESL kids on my caseload, but that can always change! We have a lot of move-ins each year and we start next week. I’ve been following Tatyana for a while and found that she has a lot of interesting information available. Thanks for reviewing these.

  19. 22

    Seth B says

    I currently only have 2 on my caseload but several more are beginning RTI. This would be so helpful to have on hand…thanks for doing this review!

  20. 23

    Shannan says

    Currently I have none but I had two in the past. My colleague has one this year. Between our two elementary buildings one of us often has at least one ESL/ELL student on our caseload. This post has great information and Tatyana’s materials would be an invaluable resource!

  21. 24

    molly says

    I work with a very large ESL population. I am required to screen all my incoming Kindergarteners ( 100+ by myself!) and I would say 80%+ are bi or tri lingual. As for my caseload, 75% are ESL. This would be very helpful in making accurate determinations between a difference or a disorder.

  22. 26

    Kathy says

    You have no idea how much I would appreciate this bundle! I do 3-4 bilingual evals a month. I absolutely need the help and advice for bilingual students! Thanks so much for the info!

  23. 27

    Brett says

    I’m about to start my CF and I’m fairly certain a large majority will be ESL. I’d love the extra resource! Thanks!

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