Evaluation of speech and language assessment approaches with bilingual children

Caroline De Lamo White, Lixian Jin

Research output: Journal PublicationReview articlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Background: British society is multicultural and multilingual, thus for many children English is not their main or only language. Speech and language therapists are required to assess accurately the speech and language skills of bilingual children if they are suspected of having a disorder. Cultural and linguistic diversity means that a more complex assessment procedure is needed and research suggests that bilingual children are at risk of misdiagnosis. Clinicians have identified a lack of suitable assessment instruments for use with this client group. Aims: This paper highlights the challenges of assessing bilingual children and reviews available speech and language assessment procedures and approaches for use with this client group. It evaluates different approaches for assessing bilingual children to identify approaches that may be more appropriate for carrying out assessments effectively. Methods & Procedures: This review discusses and evaluates the efficacy of norm-referenced standardized measures, criterion-referenced measures, language-processing measures, dynamic assessment and a sociocultural approach. Outcomes & Results: When all named procedures and approaches are compared, the sociocultural approach appears to hold the most promise for accurate assessment of bilingual children. Research suggests that language-processing measures are not effective indicators for identifying speech and language disorders in bilingual children, but further research is warranted. The sociocultural approach encompasses some of the other approaches discussed, including norm-referenced measures, criterion-referenced measures and dynamic assessment. Conclusions & Implications: The sociocultural approach enables the clinician to interpret results in the light of the child's linguistic and cultural background. In addition, combining approaches mitigates the weaknesses inherent in each approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-627
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingual children
  • Sociocultural approach
  • Speech and language assessment approaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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