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.

How important IS that interpreter anyway?

If you ask us, pretty important!!!

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We are coming across increasing numbers of ELL students in our schools – those who are bilingual or monolingual, whose first language is one other than English.  Are you noticing this where you work?

Many of us may not have access to a bilingual SLP for that student’s primary language.  Some of us may have a test normed with a Spanish speaking population, but there aren’t that many options out there…and languages other than Spanish? Nope!   Some of the students may be fluent in their native language but may tell you they prefer English.  Others may not speak fluently in either language.

Language difference does not equal language disorder!

There are also a variety of normal processes related to second language learning. Some of the students brought to our attention are just in the process of learning English.  As SLPs, we certainly want to identify if the student has a language impairment; however, we don’t want to place them in special education if their primary language is within normal limits and they are learning English typically.

So when is it necessary to collaborate with an interpreter?  Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not.

For the student who uses very little English, you would typically use an interpreter (if a bilingual SLP is not available) – kind of a no-brainer.  For the student who speaks some or quite a bit of English, you have to determine in which language he is stronger; how well does he understand and speak English?  One thing to look at is his CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) level.  A student can receive a score of 1-6 (negligible-very advanced).  In our experience, a CALP score of 4 (fluent) or lower, would necessitate working with an interpreter for some level of testing in the first language.  If the CALP score is above 4, the individual should have enough English to take standardized tests; however, it is possible the student has some language skills in the first language that are not present in English – collaboration with interpreters can help you discern these skills. Also, the student may still be demonstrating some of those normal processes of second language acquisition we just talked about!

Gaining background information and a case history from the parent(s) is also vital to making accurate determinations with ELL students. You may need an interpreter when doing this – whether through questionnaires or interviews.  The answers to some of the questions can help point you in certain directions during your assessment. For example, maybe there are other siblings in the household and parents indicate that this child did not develop language at the same rate as the other child(ren).  That’s a big red flag.  But it doesn’t automatically mean this student is disordered in their first language and lead you to believe that you don’t need an interpreter!

Think of the role of the interpreter and the purpose of your testing. You need to determine if the student has a language disorder. You have to tease out if what the student demonstrated difficulties with is due to second language acquisition or due to a language impairment. The interpreter will be invaluable in helping you through this process.

Certified interpreters are definitely the best for this process! They are specially trained to work with professionals in administering assessments. Stay tuned for our next blog post where we will discuss some tips on effective collaboration with interpreters.

How do you determine when to call in an interpreter? Comment below