Bilingual evaluations: Documenting results

In our two previous posts, we talked about the importance of interpreters and how to effectively collaborate with one before, during and after an evaluation.

Once you’ve completed your evaluation it’s time to write up the results…(sigh).

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For the most part, this won’t be too different from how you report on any of the other endless number of evaluations you complete as a school-based SLP. But there are some very important pieces to include when a student is evaluated in more than one language, with an interpreter.

Remember, most of the tests you just administered weren’t normed in the client’s primary language and they certainly weren’t normed through administration with an interpreter! So be sure you are documenting this information. Specify when and how you collaborated with the interpreter. Which portions were given by you, and which portions by the interpreter?

When documenting your analysis of the test results, be sure to discuss instances when the student may have responded incorrectly in one language but then correctly in the other.

Be careful not to report standard scores when a test is not administered per standardization requirements – read those manuals!

Was the test normed on an English speaking population? Most of them are!

Did you administer it with an interpreter to a student for whom English is not his first language?  Chances are, yes!

Can you report the standard score? Ummmm, no!

However, looking at the score certainly can help guide you as to whether the student is performing within normal limits or not.

And don’t forget to consider the responses in EITHER language. If the question was answered correctly in one language or the other, count it as correct…we’re looking at the SKILLS the student does or does not have, not in which language she demonstrates it.

Keep in mind that we are looking for language disorder, not difference (discussed further in Part 1, here).

One of the trickiest areas is syntax. So much of our English syntax (forms and word order) is different in the primary language. Take a close look at the errors in both languages with these syntax concepts. If the errors are present in both languages (with a syntax form that is expected and developmentally appropriate in both languages), that would be considered an error in syntax.  However, if the errors are only present in English, this would not be considered an impairment with syntax.  Make sure discussion of all of this is included in the report.

Remember, most of the tests you just administered weren’t normed in the client’s primary language and they certainly weren’t normed through administration with an interpreter!

There are a multitude of resources available to delve into the differences between languages – phonemic inventories, influences of one language on another, dialectal differences. ASHA includes phonemic inventories for various languages along with a brief discussion of how to use this information and links to additional resources. Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin has a great book titled Multicultural Students with Special Language Needs-4th Edition covering various topics.

Do you have any go-to resources? Share below.

Educational impact and school-based practice

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So there’s this three-pronged approach to determining special education eligibility in the school system…

  1. A student exhibits a disability
  2. The disability adversely affects educational performance
  3. Specially designed instruction (and/or related services) are required for the student to progress in the general education curriculum

So step one doesn’t seem to be too difficult. Standardized tests, criterion-referenced assessments and other formal and informal measures are available to SLPs for this purpose. Didn’t we all spend most of our graduate school class time studying the various communication processes and what constitutes them being ‘disordered’?

Step 2 – that’s another story we’ll come back to in a minute…

And step 3…well let’s just say that most SLPs want to help everyone. It’s kind of in our nature! But we cannot do it all. And we have to think about all of the expertise in a school building and what EACH are specially trained to do. If the student can’t get their needs met by other individuals on the team, perhaps they require your specialized instruction. But, let’s be honest, sometimes someone else can do it.


So back to step 2…what is adverse educational impact anyway?

Well, of course, it’s determined on an individual basis so there’s no formula for it. But it definitely includes academic and social-emotional performance.

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) provided some clarification to ASHA in 2007 confirming that educational performance does not just refer to academics.

We’ve touched on the communication skills evident in the Common Core State Standards (see that post here). The skills addressed by an SLP are clearly required for so many of these skills – easy way to justify that educational impact? We’d say so.

And it’s fair to say that educational impact for language skills is WAY easier than articulation, voice or fluency skills…but not an impossible task at all. Sometimes getting the documentation from the teachers is the hardest part.

We know that even a single-sound articulation error MAY impact a person’s self-confidence and social-emotional well-being. It’s that word ‘MAY’ that we have to be extra careful using.

Unless you are one of those SLPs with a crystal ball,

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shouldn’t we consider if there is an impact AT THE TIME OF eligibility?

Is decreased intelligibility an educational impact? Sure…how do you determine progress in the curriculum if you can’t understand the individual?

Refusal to read aloud or participate in classroom discussion? Of course, if we can pinpoint that this is related to the communication disorder.

Does the student spell like they speak? Probably some good evidence that the student isn’t even discriminating.

What about teasing? It absolutely happens…but we’d venture to say that not every student is teased and those that do experience it are not always bothered by it. Shouldn’t part of the evaluation process include how the students themselves feel about their own speech?

There can be this mindset that the educational model neglects students with communication disorders unless they are failing academically. But there is so much more to success in school than just academics.

What does adverse educational impact mean to you?