Course Introduction

As our caseloads get more diverse, more SLPs are tackling the challenge of diagnosing and qualifying children who are bilingual, multilingual, or are English learners. There are so many factors to take into account—what languages are in the mix, how long the child has been exposed to English, which language is dominant, the validity (or lack thereof) of test instruments normed on monolingual speakers… not to mention the issue of finding and using interpreters and that perpetual problem: TIME.

The following twelve research reviews, covering articles published between 2013 and 2019, chip away at some of those big questions. The first review discusses current practices in bilingual assessment among school-based SLPs. After that, two reviews tackle Spanish morphosyntactic development (typical and disordered). Finally, six reviews discuss specific assessment methods, including two reviews on aspects of language sample analysis and seven relating to standardized assessments. A lot of the information relates specifically to children who speak Spanish as a primary or a home language, but many concepts will be relevant to children from different language backgrounds. You’ll come away with a whole menu of assessment options, including:

  • Language sampling

  • Parent questionnaires combined with parts of (English!) standardized tests

  • Dynamic assessment

  • Alternate scoring/administration of vocabulary tests

  • Narrative tasks

  • A standardized assessment designed for bilingual children

That’s great, but what should I actually DO? It can be a little confusing to take all this information on board and try to synthesize it into a game plan for your next assessment. We can suggest a couple ways to approach and use this research. First, read for the big picture: what types of assessments tasks (in general) are useful—and not—for identifying language disorders in a young bilingual child? Second, picture these studies as a big toolbox full of a bunch of slightly different screwdrivers, or wrenches, or something. You can’t rely on just one, because you’re going to encounter lots of different situations calling for just the right fit. In language testing, you’ll have various ages, language backgrounds, and other factors to take into account when you’re matching an assessment process to a kid. As you read and learn, here and elsewhere, take some notes, make yourself a chart, or keep printouts on file. Then, when you get your next tricky assessment, look back and see what assessment battery has good diagnostic accuracy for kids similar to yours.

Now, are there still gaps in our knowledge? Um, yeah. Lots of research waiting to be done. There will continue to be odd cases (bolts, possibly, in the tool analogy?) where you have to rig up a solution based on your clinical expertise and knowledge of the fundamentals. But every time we can approach an assessment with the best, most current knowledge in hand, we chip away at the systemic problem of under- and over-identification of language disorders in our young bilingual friends.

Learning Outcomes & Details

As a result of this course, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe current best practices in bilingual assessment.

  2. Describe how language sample analysis may be adjusted for bilingual children.

  3. Describe how standardized assessments—both their use and scoring—may be adjusted for bilingual children.

Course Type: Text; Web or downloadable PDF

Time: This is an hour course.

ASHA CEUs: This course is offered for .1 ASHA CEUs (Intermediate level, Professional area)

Course Completion Requirements: Read the full course, then take a quiz at the end. Must pass with a score of 80% or better (two attempts allowed).


Questions? See our frequently asked questions.


Course edited and compiled by:

Meredith Harold, PhD, CCC-SLP is owner of The Informed SLP and faculty at Rockhurst University. Financial Disclosure— receives salary from The Informed SLP and Rockhurst University. Nonfinancial Disclosure— Vice President of Speech–Language Pathology for the Kansas Speech–Language–Hearing Association Board; Board member of the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association Committee on Clinical Research, Implementation Science, and Evidence-Based Practice.

Karen Evans, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech–language pathologist at Intermediate District 287, and employee of The Informed SLP. Financial Disclosure— receives salary from Intermediate District 287 and The Informed SLP. Nonfinancial Disclosure— None.

Full research and writing team bios can be found here. The Informed SLP’s researchers and writers are prohibited from having any financial or nonfinancial conflicts of interest related to the content they research and report on.

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This course is offered for .1 ASHA CEUs (Intermediate level, Professional area).