SEARCH Accessibility

Bilingual Speech Therapy for Children With Disabilities

Apr 23rd, 2024 | by NAPA Team


April 23rd, 2024

What is Bilingualism?

Bilingualism is a term used to describe the use of two languages. If more than two languages are spoken, this is multilingualism. Sounds simple, right?

Well, bilingualism can be broken down even further into four definitions (Paradis et al., 2021):

  • Simultaneous bilingualism – two languages introduced simultaneously before the age of 3.
  • Sequential bilingualism—also known as successive bilingualism or second language acquisition—occurs when a second language is introduced after the age of 3 after some language skills have already been developed in one language.
  • Dual language learners learn two languages simultaneously from infancy or are learning a second language after the first.
  • English language learners (ELLs) – English learners for social integration and educational purposes in predominantly English-speaking countries.


Can a Child With a Developmental Disability Be Bilingual?

The short answer? Yes. Kay-Raining Bird et al. (2016) wrote an article examining the findings of several studies investigating and researching this question. They found that children with developmental disabilities are capable of becoming bilingual, regardless of when their exposure to a second language occurred.

It was also found that frequent modeling of both languages is required, and children with a developmental disability, particularly children with more severe impairments, are less likely to participate in bilingual education programs.

What Does the Speech Pathology Team Do to Support Your Child’s First Language?

As Speech Pathologists, we know that bilingualism is common and normal. We also know that the primary language spoken at home is essential to your child’s life. It provides them with a connection to their family, community, culture, and self-identity. We strive to look beyond what children can and can’t say and consider what they identify with most in the present and how that may affect their future.

As a result, we will do our very best to adapt our therapy approach with their parents’ help. Sometimes, this includes:

  • Learning words and phrases in your child’s preferred language (this includes sign language).
  • Adapting communicative devices with the help of family to the child’s preferred language.
  • Work with the family to understand when your child code-switches during a conversation so we can pay attention to this in future therapy appointments.
  • Learning what your child understands when spoken to them in a language they don’t usually speak at home (e.g. English).
  • We also consider the individual sounds your child makes, as not all languages produce the same sounds and make sure we correctly identify this as their accent and not a speech sound error or disorder.


How Can I Advocate for My Child’s Preferred Spoken Language at the NAPA Centre?

At the NAPA Centre, we strive to provide excellent care during therapy sessions, explicitly catering to your child’s unique needs. It is essential that you outline on the patient intake form any other languages spoken at home and what is your child’s preferred spoken language. This allows our therapists an opportunity to prepare adequately for your child’s sessions and opens up the conversation surrounding arranging additional needs such as translation services.

About NAPA Centre

NAPA offers speech therapy to children of all ages to address speech delays and disorders in expressive/receptive language, articulation, oral motor dysfunction, apraxia of speech, social language, fluency, feeding and swallowing, and cognitive skills. Contact us today for more information!

  • Kay-Raining Bird, E., Trudeau, N., Sutton, A. (2016). Pulling it all together: the road to lasting bilingualism for children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Communication Disorders. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2016.07.005
  • Paradis, J., Genesee, F., & Crago, M. (2021). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning (3rd ed.). Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. https://brookespublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Paradis-3e_First-page-proofs-excerpt.pdf
TAGS: Blogs, SLP
Skip to content