Q&A: Recommendations for Bilingual Speech Therapy for Toddlers

blockquote_bgI am writing on behalf of family members who have 2-1/2-year-old twin boys. The boys were preemies. They live in a bilingual household in New Jersey. The family is interested in private speech therapy for the boys in their home; they are not interested in institutional or state intervention that may stigmatize the boys at a later age. They are also interested in DVDs or any books that would be helpful for the family and the boys. I would appreciate any recommendations. Also, I found a web site for “Baby Bumble Bee.” How are these DVDs?

Assuming that the pediatrician has been addressed, there are no other medical complications, and a speech and language evaluation has been recommended, you can choose which provider you want and what fits your income/insurance/needs. You need to be sure that the therapist is licensed (CCC-SLP) or is a clinical fellow with a supervisor (CFY-SLP). There are also therapists who specialize in bilingual therapy (English and Spanish especially).

Assuming that the pediatrician has been addressed, there are no other medical complications, and a speech and language evaluation has been recommended, you can choose which provider you want and what fits your income/insurance/needs. You need to be sure that the therapist is licensed (CCC-SLP) or is a clinical fellow with a supervisor (CFY-SLP). There are also therapists who specialize in bilingual therapy (English and Spanish especially).

These children do have several factors that could put them at risk for being slightly delayed: twins, boys, and prematurity. Not all twins, boys, and premature children are delayed, but they can be at risk.

Also, with two or more languages spoken in the home, the children’s brains are working harder to distinguish and learn the languages (both in comprehension of words and how to use the words). With children who are learning two languages, it is fine for the parents to use both of the languages. When children seem to be having a difficult time learning either of the languages, usually therapists recommend that one parent speaks one language while the other parent uses the other language with the child. This allows the child to focus on one language at a time. Once the languages begin to be easier for the child, the parents can begin to use both of the languages again.

I am familiar with the Baby Bumble Bee series and think they are a good series. I have worked with several families who have really enjoyed them.

Some ideas for activities for the parents/caregivers are:

  • Each parent plays the same activity with the children but at different times. (Example: In the morning, Mom plays ball or trucks with the boys using language 1. In the evening, Dad does the same activity using language 2. The kids will hear the same words but in different languages (Ball: bounce, throw, hit, big, little, etc. Trucks: big, go, fast, slow, colors, etc.)
  • Each caregiver reads the same book in their language at different times ‘ you do not always have to only read the words in the books. Look at pictures and name the objects, actions, and emotions in each language. c. One caregiver helps kids get ready for breakfast using their language to name/describe the items (cup, drink, plate, fork, spoon, food types, etc). The other caregiver uses their language during supper.
  • One caregiver helps kids get ready for breakfast using their language to name/describe the items (cup, drink, plate, fork, spoon, food types, etc). The other caregiver uses their language during supper.

These are just several suggestions. Your speech pathologist will be able to provide more.

I once saw a single mother who did not want to speak English in the home but wanted the kids to learn from other examples. In this situation, be sure to have the child involved in play groups, a preschool group, a library story time, etc. If it is a single-parent home, try to find a friend or another family member who can help.

These are some recommendations for your family. Please be sure to talk with your doctor and speech/language pathologist regarding your concerns. Thanks again for your question.