How to Approach Assessment as a Monolingual SLP

Hello Everyone,

I can’t remember if I mentioned it before, but back in February, my district provided me with an opportunity to attend a two day workshop by Dr. Celeste Roseberry-McKibben focused on the assessment and treatment of communication disorders in English Language Learners. It was a wonderful workshop! I loved howDr. Roseberry-McKibben provided so many practical resources and references that we could literally use the following school day! Dr. Roseberry-Mckibben is a great speaker, very down to earth and has a very interesting life story. If you are able to attend her workshops, please GO! The many resources I use in assessment come from her book. I have placed the reference below.

So this post basically draws from some of my notes from her workshop as well as information that you may already have found from this blog. I just want to put it all together for the newcomers who may come to this blog not sure what they are going to do with Student X who just came here from (insert-a-country-that-you-may-not-be-familiar-with-here) and does not speak English at all!

To minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed by the task of determining learning difference vs. disorder, you must try NOT to panic!  Below are four things to consider as you prepare to conduct a comprehensive evaluation.

  1. Research and familiarize yourself with the language/phonology as well as cultural attitudes towards people with disabilities. Parents and interpreters are your biggest informants here, especially if the language or dialect is not widely known. You can also check the following links for more information about different languages and their phonemic inventories.
    World Atlas of Language Structures
    Phonemic Inventories Across Languages
  2. Conduct a parent interview using Dr. Cate Crowley’s Critical Questions to assist you in understanding how the first language is being used by the child and those in his/her home environment. Interviewing the interpreter (if you have one) may also provide you with another perspective that may be helpful as you gather information about the student’s language. The link to the Critical Questions is here.
  3. Observe the student as much as possible in as many environments as possible. As a school based SLP, this could be within the classroom during a structured lesson, at recess, during lunch, or in the ESL classroom (usually a smaller group environment). Also check out my post about collaborating with ESL teachers as well!
  4. Conduct assessments that reduce/eliminate bias such as collecting and analyzing a language sample, use of process based measures (i.e. nonword repetition tasks, fast mapping), narrative story retell with wordless picture books, use of SLAM cards from the Leader’s Project website, and dynamic assessment. The use and reporting of standardized assessments and their scores is only appropriate if the student you test is represented in the normative sample. If not, do not report the scores and just write a qualitative summary of your findings.

I have also added a handout to the Must Have Forms for the Spanglish SLP page. I created this form as a guide when working with interpreters so that you may obtain the most accurate information about the student’s L1.

I know working with English Language Learners as a monolingual SLP can be very scary because we as SLPs strive to provide best practice in everything we do…so when you throw another language in the mix, it’s a bit of a daunting task! If you have a bilingual SLP in your district, please use them as a resource. If you do not, with the right tools, you are capable of more than you think! We are trained investigators!

Is there anything else you do in preparation for assessment or while assessing a student that you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments below!
–Langdon, H.W & Cheng, L.L. (2002). Collaborating with interpreters and translators: A guide for professionals in the communication disorders field. Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.
–Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (2008). Multicultural students with special language needs: Practical strategies for assessment and intervention (3rd ed). Oceanside, CA: Academic Communication Associates.


*As mentioned in a post from long ago, the opinions I expressed in this post are completely my own. I am not being compensated for anything mentioned in this post unless I explicitly state it. Also please review the Terms and Conditions page for further details. 


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