Therapy Treatment for Children who are Bilingual

Therapy Treatment for Children who are Bilingual

Interview with one of LTC's speech therapists, Alexandra Acheson, M.S. CFY-SLP, on treating kids who are bilingual.

1. Are milestones different for bilingual children?

There is a misconception that bilingualism can cause a language delay, but there has been no empirical evidence that indicates any sort of language delay in bilingual children. Studies have shown that bilingual and monolingual children achieve the basic milestones of language development around the same time. Like monolingual children, most bilingual children will speak their first words by the time they are 1 year old and by two years old, they can use two-word phrases.

2. Do you only work on 1 language at a time?

To a degree, yes. I ask the child/parent what language they would prefer to speak in during the session. If, however, during the session, there is a question that is difficult for the child to answer, I repeat the question in the other language to provide additional support.

3. Do you ask the family to only speak English at home?

No! Families should speak in the language that feels the most natural to them. Having the family interact and speak in the language they are comfortable in will be the best way to help promote language acquisition.

4. How can an English-speaking therapist help if they don't know Spanish?

I would suggest they try to integrate as much Spanish as they can during their session by using any resources they have. For example, if the child’s parents speak Spanish and English, bring them back to the session and have them translate. If the parents do not speak English, try finding a coworker who speaks Spanish to help translate the home program for them to work on at home. Translation apps (like Google translate) are another resource that can be utilized to help translate words and/or short phrases that you can use with the child during the session and when explaining the home program to parents.

-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

-Pediatric Physical Therapist

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