Bilingual children with special educational needs and disabilities
Occasionally, children can have unavoidable issues with language and speech development. As a care provider, you have an opportunity to work with them to improve their communication.
Reasons why the child may be having difficulties with language
- limited experience of English
- undiagnosed hearing difficulties
- limited opportunities for play and language use
- developmental delay or disordered language development
- medical problems
- environmental factors, for example, trauma, housing conditions
- learning difficulties.
Steps to take before referring to speech and language therapy
- listen to the parent or carer's concerns
- accurately measure the child's progress against their initial assessment
- ensure that you have the right support mechanisms in place
- consider the factors above and refer to appropriate services. for example, audiology.
Strategies to help
- use gestures, facial expressions, and body language to support your verbal message
- keep your language simple and instructions short
- only talk about the here and now - not the past or future
- keep repeating unfamiliar words so the child gets used to hearing them
- get down to the child’s level, so that they can see your face and see that you are listening
- consider small group work for the child, targeting specific vocabulary and speech activities.
Supporting bilingual children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- bilingual children with autism do not experience additional delays in language development and can manage vocabulary in more than one language
- using two or more languages with a child with autism spectrum disorder helps to develop their social skills
- bilingual autistic children tend to use more gestures to communicate than those only exposed to a single language
- even if a child is non-verbal, they should have the opportunity to learn other languages spoken at home.
Strategies to help
- use the child's name to gain their attention
- simplify your language and keep sentences short and to the point
- use the 10 second rule to allow children additional time to process what you have said and respond
- use visual aids to support the child's understanding
- model speech back to the child and expand on what they have said.