Speech and Language Therapy Services for Bilingual Children in England and Scotland: A Tale of Three Cities.
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Mennen, I., Stansfield, J. & Johnston, S. (2005) Speech and Language Therapy Services for Bilingual Children in England and Scotland: A Tale of Three Cities., ISB4: Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism, , , pp. 1578-1596, Somerville, MA
It is generally accepted that the majority of the world's population speaks more than one language and that the monolingual situation is rather uncommon (e.g. Aitchison, 1994). Winter (1999) suggests that there is no reason to assume that the prevalence of speech and language difficulties in the bilingual population should be any different to that in the monolingual population. It is thus inevitable that managers are faced with having to provide appropriate speech and language therapy services for bilingual and multilingual clients in order to ensure an equitable service to all clients. This is, however, a rather challenging task. In order to assess the need for such a service, to plan what resources are required and the best way to deliver that service, managers will need to be aware of the bilingual population they are serving. Such socio-demographic information is however not available as an easily retrievable statistic and it is difficult for managers to plan a service when faced with a paucity of data on the linguistic communities present within their area of remit. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT, the United Kingdom's professional body for speech and language therapists) has acknowledged the need to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services by documenting guidelines for therapists in its handbook of professional standards (RCSLT, 1996). These guidelines advise that speech and language assessment should be carried out in both (all) languages spoken by a bilingual or multilingual client and also highlight the importance of offering speech and language therapy in the client's chosen language. In practice, however, it may be difficult for the speech and language therapy service to achieve these guidelines. Young and Westernoff (1999) identified several challenges professionals are faced with when working with clients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, ranging from culture, language, and training, to professional matters. These challenges are often perceived to be barriers to providing an efficacious service to these clients. This study investigates the current speech and language therapy service to bilingual children within three major centres of population in Britain and specifically addresses whether the speech and language therapists working in these areas believe that their service is currently capable of meeting the RCSLT guidelines. Through a combination of interviews and postal questionnaires, information was gathered about the speech and language therapy paediatric service provision in each of these centres, with particular emphasis to some of the challenges that may affect service provision, such as language, training and policy. Further data was gathered by studying Census data and data gleaned from Local Education Authorities (LEA). The study is part of a wider study which aims to get a more in depth view of how RCSLT guidelines are being addressed, how accessible the service is, what support services are in place, and how services can be improved. In this paper, however, we will only report on the first phase of this study, as described above. In our study we use the term bilingual to refer to individuals who use two or more languages in any of its modalities, speaking, writing, reading and writing (Mackey, 1968) and do not distinguish between bilingualism, multilingualism, or biculturalism and multiculturalism, unless specifically stated otherwise.