Although we do our best to review EBP for culturally and linguistically diverse students, the reality is that most interventions are researched using monolingual English speakers. There’s even fewer studies out there about interventions for really young kids, even though we know that early intervention is vital for later academic and language outcomes. The authors of this new study reviewed high-quality, culturally/linguistically-responsive language interventions for kids under five to see what we DO know. But first, what counts as a responsive intervention, anyway?
Linguistically-responsive interventions encourage the use of the home language or language variety. This doesn’t mean SLPs have to be bilingual. Coaching parents on language stimulation strategies to use in their native language counts.
Culturally-responsive interventions incorporate the values, beliefs, practices, experiences and materials relevant to the cultural backgrounds of children and their families. Culturally-responsive interventions can take many forms, but might include strategies centered around the way people from the family's culture typically interact with young children, or using materials that represent the family’s background.
So what seems to work? Explicit instruction of target skills was particularly effective, with 100% of studies reporting an increase in English skills and 78% reporting an increase in home language skills. These interventions, delivered individually or in small groups, tended to be especially useful for vocabulary growth. Classroom curriculum and book reading interventions, delivered in the home or school, were also promising (especially when delivered in the students’ home languages), but with a wider range of effect sizes.
Importantly, interventions that met the criteria for being both linguistically and culturally responsive were the most effective for improving children’s language abilities in English and the home language. Including the child’s home language did not detract from the effectiveness of the interventions. Unfortunately, less than a third of the studies reviewed used culturally-responsive interventions! SLPs can (and need to) do better to use interventions that match families' backgrounds.
Larson, A.L., Cycyk, L.M., Carta, J.J., Hammer, C.S., Baralt, M., Uchikoshi, Y., … Wood. C. (2019). A systematic review of language-focused interventions for young children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2019.06.001