Highlights from the 7th Annual Bilingual Symposium in Cancun, Mexico

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I had the honor and privilege of presenting and participating in the Seventh Annual Symposium sponsored by Bilingual Therapies in Cancún, Mexico this past week. Cancún is a beautiful beach town located in the state of Quintana Roo on the southern east tip of the Mexican Peninsula, right on the Caribbean sea. The colors of the ocean are some of the most beautiful colors one could imagine, a mix of different blue and green hues. Even though the location of the conference was very attractive, both presenters and participants were very involved during both days. A total of 85 participants were able to attend the conference. The audience included clinicians and as well as students. Because we had such a tight schedule, I could only squeeze a visit to the Mercado where I found wonderful “artesanías” (crafts) and I was lucky to see an iguana hiding in a bush near my room. (Interestingly, the iguana seemed more frightened than I was!). Then it was time to get back home. Next time I travel that far, I promised myself I would visit the Mayan ruins and the islands of Cozumel and Isla de Mujeres. Now, back to the Symposium!!

As I had mentioned in the July ¿Qué Tal? column the topics presented included:

  • Coping with a Changing World as a Service Provider- Implications for the Speech Language and Hearing Service Providers, a keynote delivered by Dr. Li-Rong Lilly Cheng (San Diego State University, CA)
  • First Language Loss: From Theory to Clinical Practice -Dr. Raquel Anderson (Indiana University, Bloomington)
  • Implementation of Effective and Efficient Educational Bilingual Intervention Plans-Dr. Henriette Langdon (San José State University, CA).
  • Evidence for Treating Phonological Disorders in Bilingual Children-Dr. Brian Goldstein (Temple University, PA)
  • Difference vs. disorder? Managing Cultural and Linguistic Differences in Evaluation- Dr. Samuel Ortiz (St John’s University. NY).

In addition to the presentations, Melanie Strait from Super Duper discussed two tests in Spanish that have been recently published by the company: 1- WABC-S: Wiig Assessment of Basic Concepts-Spanish by Elisabeth Wiig, Ph.D. and Henriette Langdon, Ed.D and, 2-CPACS-S: Conceptual Probes of Articulation Competence-Spanish by Brian Goldstein, Ph.D. and Aquiles Iglesias, Ph.D. Also, I gave a presentation on the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-CELF-4 (Spanish) (2006) written by Eleanor Semel, Elisabeth Wiig and Wayne Secord and published by Psychological Corporation.

The conference concluded with a Round Table Discussion.

MAIN POINTS DISCUSSED IN THE SYMPOSIUM

  • Assessment of a child or student who comes from another language and/or culture should not be conducted in the absence of considering the individual’s environment, language history, and experiences.
  • We have to be cautious when we assess students in their primary/native language. We need to take into account the possibility of language loss which is often more rapid in a subtractive environment instead of thinking that it may be due to a language disability.
  • Some forms in Spanish that are most vulnerable to loss are irregular verb forms like “yo sabo;” use of third person of a verb instead of first person like “habla vs. hablo;” loss of gender agreement especially article “la perro, la papá, el casa.”
  • As stated before, it is necessary to seek information about how the language is viewed and used in the community, evaluate the presence of monolingual speakers, immigration patterns, educational levels, importance of L1 and educational models to determine if the child is experiencing language loss or may be a reflection of a language impairment.
  • Counseling families to speak English to their child when the child has a disability in L1 has no research-based validity. All current emerging research indicates that bilingualism does not cause a language impairment. Furthermore, some studies have shown that children with SLI can acquire two languages. What matters is that parents and families use the language they are most comfortable using the primary goal is communication. A great deal of education needs to be done by SLPs to other professionals who erroneously think that speaking more English will assist the child.
  • How to address which language/languages to use in case of a child who will be receiving a cochlear implant was the subject of debate during the Round Table Discussion. We still have limited research or studies to provide the answer. However, it will be important to help parents by encouraging them to communicate with their child in their language and offer strategies on how to facilitate that communication even if it is not in English.
  • From my conversations with some participants, another issue is how to counsel parents who have autistic children. Again, research is limited but my experience tells me that parents should speak with their child using in their own language. I was able to follow up on one case where a child eventually started to speak French (his home language) before transitioning to English.
  • Furthermore, offering more English to ELL students in their curricula does not enhance learning of the language. On the contrary, research has shown that programs that nurture the first language facilitates the acquisition of English and enhances academic performance.
  • When we administer tests we should be cautious about the linguistic and cultural demands imposed by the test. Dr. Ortiz has created a matrix to evaluate the level of linguistic and cultural load of several psychological and language tests.
  • Dr. Goldstein is currently norming the CPAC-S. Anyone interested in participating in this research can contact Melanie Strait — Super Duper at 864-284-4547.

As always, I do welcome your comments.

Henriette W. Langdon, Ed.D., F-CCC-SLP
Professor
Communicative Disorders & Sciences
College of Education
San José State University
San José, CA 95192-0079
408-924-4019 voice
408-924-3641 fax

hlangdon@email.sjsu.edu

Gracias – Thank you.

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