Importance of Assessing Nonlinguistic Cognitive Skills in Bilingual Children with Primary Language Impairment

By Chantal Mayer-Crittenden and Manon Robillard.

Published by The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 12, 2014 $US5.00

Many bilingual school-aged children are misdiagnosed as having a Primary Language Impairment (PLI) when in reality they are in the process of learning a second language (L2). The reverse is also true. How can we differentiate between these two groups? How do we overcome the bilingual assessment challenge? Recent research has shown that children with PLI often have subtle weaknesses in their nonlinguistic cognitive processing skills. This paper will look at how we can assess these skills and establish intervention goals accordingly by looking at a review of the existing literature. Articles that have studied nonlinguistic processing skills in children with and without PLI have been examined. Deficits in processing speed, sustained attention, selective attention, cognitive control, and working memory are often present in children with PLI. A plethora of tools exist to assess these abilities, which is why an assessment protocol is required. The tools have been grouped according to age range, the language in which they are available and the qualifications required for administration. This will facilitate the assessment of bilingual children by providing teachers, speech-language pathologists, psychologists and other professionals, assessment options founded on evidence-based practice.

Keywords: Bilingualism, Nonlinguistic Cognitive Processing Skills, Primary Language Impairment

International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, Volume 20, Issue 2, March 2014, pp.25-55. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 12, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 875.035KB)).

Dr. Chantal Mayer-Crittenden

Assistant Professor, Speech and Language Pathology Programs, Faculty of Professional Schools, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Chantal Mayer-Crittenden is a speech-language pathologist and assistant professor in the Speech-language Pathology program at Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada. She has a special interest in primary language impairment (PLI), interdisciplinary research and bilingualism. Chantal received her doctorate from the interdisciplinary Human Studies program at Laurentian University. She is presently examining the linguistic and cognitive abilities of bilingual children with a PLI. She has presented at the international level on this topic.

Dr. Manon Robillard

Assistant Professor, Speech-Language Pathology Programs, Faculty of Professional Schools, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Manon Robillard is currently an assistant professor for the Speech-language Pathology program at Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada. She is also a speech-language pathologist with 14 years of clinical experience in childhood communication disorders. Manon received her doctorate from Laurentian University’s interdisciplinary Human Studies program. Her current research interests involve the relationship between cognitive skills and young children’s language abilities. She is also studying the benefit of a cognitive linguistic approach to the treatment of primary language impairments. She has a variety of speaking engagement experience including at International conferences.