Early Intervention and Linguistically-Diverse Families

June 12, 2013

BLOG pic (2)Early Intervention, or the process of providing services, education, and support to young children and their families who have been identified as having a developmental delay and/or disorder, was designed to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities. Designing an early intervention program that is able to identify and meet a child’s individual needs can be challenging for a service provider, especially when providing services to linguistically diverse families. According to the research literature, service providers can do several things to ensure they are providing appropriate services to a linguistically-diverse group.

            Upon meeting a new client and their parents entering an Early Intervention Clinic, the service provider can ask themselves or the parent, “How does this parent’s background influence his or her perspectives about language learning and education for his/her child? What does this parent want for their child? What concerns does this parent have regarding their child, or the program?” By understanding that a unique culture is inherent in each family with which a service provider works with, they will be able to understand and respect how a family identifies itself.

            According to the research, providing parents and families with information regarding how children learn language and the benefits of bilingualism as well as the preservation of home language and culture, benefit the child’s language development. Parents and families also benefit from learning ways to enhance their child’s language and literacy at home, as well as how to navigate the educational system.

            Families have strengths that can serve as the building blocks for effective service, and service providers should foster those strengths in the family and their community.

Sarah Peters, M.A., CCC-SLP

 From the President: Working Early-Intervention Magic in Community Settings, Patty Prelock

 Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Early Intervention: Position Statement, ASHA


Speech, Language & Literacy: English Language Learners and the Road to Reading

October 29, 2012

In July 2007 the Journal Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools printed an article titled Narrative and Vocabulary Development of Bilingual Children From Kindergarten to First Grade: Developmental Changes and Associations Among English and Spanish Skills.  This article asserted that

“when bilingual children’s vocabulary levels are too low in the language in which they are learning to read, these young learners will…encounter difficulties”.

As professionals, parents, and adults in the lives of children that are English language learners (ELL) what can we do to better help them avoid anticipated difficulties learning to read? We can approach it the same way we would approach a young child learning language for the first time.

  • Provide opportunities for language use and interaction

–     Provide rich and interesting activities “worth talking about”

–     Allow quiet times when teachers are not talking and children can initiate conversation

–     Arrange the environment so that not all materials are readily accessible in order to promote discussion

  • Provide focused stimulation on particular language features

–     Model target sounds or words for children; encourage repetition of models

–     Recast children’s utterances to  maintain semantic information but extend syntactic use

–     Recast adult utterances in the same way

–     Develop routines to help children connect events and language

–     Establish familiar daily routines like arrival time, circle time, snack time

–     Develop scripts related to sociodramatic play activities including discussion/demonstration about roles, props, and activities

–     Use event casting/self-talk (talking while doing) to model problem-solving strategies


If the English language learner is already in a social situation where they interact with native English speakers, the native English speakers can also be used to provide modeling to the ELL children.

  • Initiation: teach native English children to approach other children, establish eye contact, and ask the children to play with them or a specific toy
  • General Linguistic Aspects: teach native English children to speak slowly with good enunciation
  • Reinitiation: teach native English children to repeat the initiation if met with nonresponse
  • Request Clarification: teach native English children to request clarification of a response by the second language learner if the response was not understood
  • Recast/expansion: teach native English children to repeat an utterance with slightly different wording when the second language learner indicated a lack of comprehension through nonresponse, noncontingent response, or other nonverbal signs

Remember, the road to reading begins long before the children enter a classroom. When bilingual children’s vocabulary levels are too low in the language in which they are learning to read, these young learners will…encounter difficulties”. If children have difficulty reading, then this will impact them academically. Therefore, the language stimulation that we provide at a young age has the potential to change the course of their entire academic career.


Alana Garcia-Chavez, M.S., CCC-SLP