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Bilingualism and Children with Communication Disabilities

presented by Laura Epstein and Betty Yu

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Disclosure Statement:

Financial: Laura Epstein and Betty Yu receive compensation from MedBridge for this course. There is no financial interest beyond the production of this course.


Non-Financial: Laura Epstein and Betty Yu have no competing non-financial interests or relationships with regard to the content presented in this course.

Satisfactory completion requirements: All disciplines must complete learning assessments to be awarded credit, no minimum score required unless otherwise specified within the course.

MedBridge is committed to accessibility for all of our subscribers. If you are in need of a disability-related accommodation, please contact [email protected]. We will process requests for reasonable accommodation and will provide reasonable accommodations where appropriate, in a prompt and efficient manner.

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Can children with communication disabilities become bilingual? Will bilingualism exacerbate their difficulties or further delay their development? While there is ample data on the advantages of bilingualism for typically developing children, many professionals and parents are still fearful of speaking more than one language with children who have significant communication disorders they worry that bilingualism would be too taxing for children who are already struggling with language, or may further delay the acquisition of one or both languages. In this course, we will review the current research on bilingual children with communication disabilities, including children with specific language impairment and autism spectrum disorders. We will also answer frequently asked questions about bilingualism in children communication disabilities as well as offer perspectives from parents of children with communication disabilities from bilingual families. It is the aim of this course to dispel common myths about bilingualism in children with communication disorders and to promote family-centered and culturally and linguistically responsive services for children with communication disabilities from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

Meet Your Instructors

Laura Epstein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Laura Epstein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is an Associate Professor, Program Coordinator and School Internship Coordinator at San Francisco State University. Her research and clinical focus is on Spanish-bilingual language development/disorders and inclusion. She was California Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention Program Co-Chair, 2014 & 2015, and Volunteer Committee Co-Chair in 2016. She was awarded the CSHA Diversity Award,…

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Betty Yu, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Betty Yu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education & Communicative Disorders. Before joining the faculty at San Francisco State, she practiced as a speech-language therapist primarily serving young children and their families in minority communities. Her research interest is in how children's language development interfaces with the development of sociocultural competence.…

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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1. Bilingualism and Communication Disabilities: FAQs and Evidence-Based Answers

Bilingual families of children with communication disabilities are frequently advised to speak only English with the children. This advice reflects the misinformation that persists around bilingualism in children with communication disabilities. The aim of this chapter is to shed light on what the current research literature says on the topic.

2. Parent Perspectives on Bilingualism and Children with Communication Disabilities

This chapter builds on the previous one by applying the research findings to address three frequently asked questions about bilingualism in children with communication disabilities. Specifically, it addresses the questions of: a) Will hearing more than one language confused the children? b) Will using the home language hinder the learning of English? and c) Will the mixing of languages confuse children?

3. Question and Answer Session

What languages caregivers use with their children with disabilities is a complex and personal matter. Professionals often advise parents to speak particular languages to their children without an understanding of the perspectives of families, which often leads to disruption in family dynamics. The aim of this chapter is to share some perspectives of parents from minority-language families regarding their language choices with their children with disabilities.

More Courses in this Series

Foundations in Bilingual and Biliterate Learning and Development

Presented by Laura Epstein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP and Betty Yu, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Foundations in Bilingual and Biliterate Learning and Development

Subscribe now, and access clinical education and patient education—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.
More than half of the world population is bilingual or multilingual. According to the U.S. Census (2010), approximately a quarter of the U.S. population over the age of five speaks a language other than English at home. Since 1980, the nation’s overall population grew by 34 percent while the percentage of speakers of non-English languages grew by 140 percent. In contrast, fewer than 5 percent of speech-language pathologists in the U.S. speak a language other than English. Children from minority-language backgrounds are disproportionately represented in Special Education and lack access to equitable services to support their needs. What do speech-language pathologists need to understand in order to better support the needs of the bilingual children that they serve? This course will provide an overview of the cognitive, developmental, and cultural foundations of typical bilingual and biliterate acquisition in children. This course is one of three courses on bilingualism. In the next two courses, issues related to assessment and children with communication disabilities are discussed.

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Assessment of Bilingual Children and English Language Learners

Presented by Laura Epstein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP and Betty Yu, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Assessment of Bilingual Children and English Language Learners

Subscribe now, and access clinical education and patient education—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.
Children from minority-language backgrounds are disproportionately represented in Special Education and lack access to equitable services to support their needs. A significant contributor to the problem is that speech-language pathologists and teachers often have difficulties distinguishing between what are typical behaviors in second language learning and what are indicators of language disorders. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an assessment framework for differentiating between language differences and language disorders. This course will provide a framework for assessing bilingual children and children who are English language learners. This course will also provide case examples of assessments in the family setting and in the school setting. This course is second of three courses on bilingualism. In the next course, bilingualism in children with communication disabilities are discussed.

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