Cross-language treatment of speech sounds disorders in bilingual children
The purpose of the present study is to explore generalization of knowledge across languages when treating speech sound disorders in bilingual children. Phonological knowledge interacts across phonological systems. Thus, in theory, treating phonetic aspects that are shared across the sounds of differing languages should facilitate target accuracy in each of the child’s phonological systems. Addressing both linguistic systems allows clinicians to support the communication of their clients across linguistic environments.
Specifically, this study seeks to answer the question: Can cross-linguistic generalization be facilitated for targets with shared phonetic features in Spanish-English bilingual children with speech sounds disorders? The hypothesis is that shared phonetic features are subject to interactional effects. To test this hypothesis, four bilingual children between the ages of 5;0 – 6;6 with speech sound disorders participated in a phonological intervention with individualized treatment goals. Each child received therapy focusing on the shared features across phonological systems in their home language (Spanish) and their second language (English). Accuracy of targeted sounds was the dependent variable and was assessed within and across languages using a multiple-baseline-across-behaviors, single-subject design. The prediction was that skills targeted in Spanish would generalize into English.
The results show concurrent growth across phonological systems when treatment was administered only in Spanish. This study offers insights into how bilingual children categorize shared features across languages and how treatment can be facilitated in one language to promote generalization of skills both internally and externally. The implications affect how we create goals in a clinical setting and support an interdependent model of phonological organization in bilingual children. Future studies may wish to explore reverse directions of generalization and generalization across other language combinations.