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Leah Fabiano-Smith

University of Arizona

Monday, October 6th at 2 PM in AP&M 4301. Leah Fabiano-Smith (University of Arizona) will be presenting.

Speech Production in Bilingual Children: Theory Development and Clinical Implications

Bilingual children are often misdiagnosed as having special needs when they truly exhibit normal development (Rueda, Artiles, Salazar, & Higareda, 2002). In the area of speech sound disorders, speech-language pathologists (SLP) are avoiding the assessment of bilingual children due to the lack of knowledge and resources necessary for best practice with this population (Kritikos, 2003). Misdiagnosis of speech sound disorders in this population has long-term emotional, financial, and educational costs. These clinical errors can be prevented if we acquire more information on what constitutes normal and disordered speech development in the bilingual population. A theoretical model that allows us to differentiate differences in speech production (i.e., differences between bilinguals and monolinguals in how a child speaks due to the influence of one language on the other) from speech disorder (i.e., an underlying speech-learning disability) will provide SLPs with the knowledge they need to prevent misdiagnosis. Recent research has found evidence in bilingual children’s speech productions that they may be using some sounds interchangeably in both languages (Fabiano-Smith and Barlow, 2010) and acquire phonological structure at a different rate than their monolingual peers (e.g., Fabiano-Smith & Bunta, 2012; Fabiano-Smith & Goldstein, 2010a; Lleó & Rakow, 2002). For example, Fabiano-Smith and Goldstein (2010b) found that bilingual children exhibit higher production accuracy on sounds shared between English and Spanish than on sounds specific to either language. Fabiano-Smith, Oglivie, Maiefski, and Schertz (2014) found that bilingual Spanish-English speaking children, up until age 8, may demonstrate a high rate of stopping of fricatives due to the Spanish stop-spirant alternation. These findings suggest that perhaps bilingual children have speech sound representations that differ from those of monolingual children, indicating that SLPs must take these differences into consideration during phonological assessment in order to prevent misdiagnosis. This talk will present a theoretical model for speech sound production in bilingual children and a series of studies examining the production patterns of bilingual Spanish-English speaking children. The results of these studies are discussed in light of (1) current theories on bilingual speech perception and speech production and (2) evidence-based assessment practices for bilingual Spanish-English speaking children that take into consideration interaction between their two languages.