The Identification of Developmental Language Disorder Within Linguistically Diverse Schools

Guest post by: Janna B. Oetting, PhD, CCC-SLP

April 12th 2018

The April 2018 Clinical Forum, “Toward Accurate Identification of Developmental Language Disorder Within Linguistically Diverse Schools,” in Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools showcases studies from five research teams. Frustrated by the long-standing problem of over-diagnosis and under-diagnosis of childhood language disorders within linguistically diverse communities, each team evaluated a different tool (or tools) that exist(s) within the discipline. Tools were selected for their potential usefulness, in hopes of offering clinicians tools to try rather than tools to avoid.  

Studies by Gregory and Oetting, Washington et al., and Weiler et al. focus on children who live in southern areas of the United States (e.g., Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee) and speak nonmainstream dialects of English, including urban and rural varieties of African American English and rural varieties of Southern White English. Studies by Potapova et al. and Bedore et al. focus on bilingual Spanish/English children who live in western areas of the United States (e.g., Texas, Colorado, Utah, California). The children in these studies are English language learners, and their exposure to Spanish and English is well documented through parent and/or teacher report. Across the five studies, the children’s ages varied, with the youngest enrolled in preschool and the oldest enrolled in fifth grade.     

Although the five studies include children who differ widely in locality, language learning profile, and age, they are unified by a “disorder within difference” model that recognizes the need for speech-language pathologists to identify language disorders WITHIN the context of language differences. All five research teams also assessed morphosyntax reflecting the well-established finding that children with developmental language disorder who speak a wide range of languages and dialects display pronounced morphosyntactic deficits when compared with same language– or same dialect–speaking typically developing peers.  

Readers are invited to explore the articles in this clinical forum and to consider the evidence that supports each tool evaluated. As concluded by Oetting in the prologue, although more studies are needed to extend those highlighted in this forum, each research team found promising results with tools focused on morphosyntax.

Explore the Clinical Forum

Oetting, J. B. (2018). Prologue: Toward Accurate Identification of Developmental Language Disorder Within Linguistically Diverse Schools. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 213–217. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_LSHSS-CLSLD-17-0156

Gregory, K. D., & Oetting, J. B. (2018). Classification Accuracy of Teacher Ratings When Screening Nonmainstream English-Speaking Kindergartners for Language Impairment in the Rural South. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 218–231. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0045

Washington, J. A., Branum-Martin, L., Sun, C., & Lee-James, R. (2018). The Impact of Dialect Density on the Growth of Language and Reading in African American Children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 232–247. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_LSHSS-17-0063

Weiler, B., Schuele, C. M., Feldman, J. I., & Krimm, H. (2018). A Multiyear Population-Based Study of Kindergarten Language Screening Failure Rates Using the Rice Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 248–259. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0071

Potapova, I., Kelly, S., Combiths, P. N., & Pruitt-Lord, S. L. (2018). Evaluating English Morpheme Accuracy, Diversity, and Productivity Measures in Language Samples of Developing Bilinguals. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0026

Bedore, L. M., Peña, E. D., Anaya, J. B., Nieto, R., Lugo-Neris, M. J., & Baron, A. (2018). Understanding Disorder Within Variation: Production of English Grammatical Forms by English Language Learners. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 277–291. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0027

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