Wednesday, May 11, 2011

IA & Language Development

Helpful post from a pediatric speech-language therapist and adoptive mom, giving guidelines for when it's time to seek professional speech/language help for an internationally adopted child:
When a young child is adopted internationally, her language will undergo a transition. For a period of time, she will struggle to communicate effectively in her new language. This is expected. However, during this period of time, there are clues in other areas of development that can provide insight into her potential for language development.  Even when a child is making a transition in language, we can still take a peek at her use of eye contact, play, and gestures.  Children who are adopted internationally may struggle to use verbal words at first, but their use of eye contact, play, and gestures should not be affected by the switch in languages. And because these areas of development are closely related to language development, they can help us decide if a child is at risk for a language delay.  If you, as a parent, have recently adopted a child internationally, you can check out these posts to find out what your child should be doing with play and gesture use. Find your child's age, click on the post, and read the sections about gesture use and play.
I sure could have used this! When Zoe was 18 months old and had been home 9 months I was soooo worried about her language development. She didn't really babble, she didn't try out words.  I had her evaluated, and they pegged her at 17 months in speech development!  All that worry for nothing.  Sure enough, she was one of those kids who didn't really talk until she could speak in full grammatically correct paragraphs!


Anonymous said...

This is interesting,but not exactly true. We had the opposite problem: my son scored amazingly well in everything except expressive speech at 18 months after being adopted at a year old. I was concerned about his lack of speech progress, and he did qualify for EI based on this, but all along my concerns were dismissed by the speech professionals we were consulting. At 3 he was deemed "age appropriate", and denied services. At 4 he was denied by our school district for speech services when his preschool teacher sabotaged my concerns and told the ST that "oh, what do you expect, he's adooooopted!". At 5 I had a seasoned kindergarten teacher back me up and he was evaluated by a very senior ST in the school system; she was horrified by his expressive speech level (YEARS behind). He was put into intensive speech therapy, he's 7 and still has issues and I really wish this could have been addressed earlier to save him the years of ST he has ahead of him.

My point is this: if your intuition tells you your child needs help, LISTEN. This ST writing the article sounds just like the ones who denied my son's problems because he had such beautiful "gestures" and social/emotional development and eye contact.... listen to your gut. I wish I had fought harder for my son to get services earlier instead of accepting the "professional opinions".

Mei Ling said...

Interestingly enough, I also make more eye contract and sweeping gestures when talking in Mandarin.

I mean, it's not like the eye contact gives me more vocab or anything, but it's something I notice I only do when speaking Mandarin, as opposed to English, where I rarely ever make eye contrct.

ChildTalk said...

"This ST writing the article sounds just like the ones who denied my son's problems because he had such beautiful "gestures" and social/emotional development and eye contact.... listen to your gut. I wish I had fought harder for my son to get services earlier instead of accepting the "professional opinions".

Just chiming in quickly as the ST writing this! I certainly wouldn't have said to ignore your son's needs! Gestures are certainly not the only thing to look at -- they just give us information when a child *first comes home* and we *can't* assess his language (because he's in the process of a language transition). What I was saying is that those parents of children who are using good gestures and eye contact can relax for a bit...until the children have been home for a while and we can watch how they are transitioning languages.

But we are getting some pretty good data now about when kids *should* be caught up and when we should worry-- those are the guidelines for referral that are listed in the second part of the article. Check out that part of the article and it will make more sense!

And...stay tuned...I've got another post coming with information about how children adopted before the age of 2 SHOULD be caught up in language within one year of coming home...or they should be seen for services. The fact that we have good data on this now will be good for families like yours who are told "what do you expect--he's adopted"-- that should NOT happen after a year if a child is adopted at young age.

Hope that makes some sense!! :)


Anonymous said...

Dear Becca,
Thank you for your reply, it clarified the meaning of your article. There is such a lack of good research done on language development of internationally adopted children: evidence based practice is severely lacking so most ST's aren't equipped to deal with these issues. I am glad that you are doing research on this issue; as of now, only one person comes to my mind when trying to find published ST research on IA kids (Glennen).
You would not believe the ST's (including those in my own family who work with kids!) who tried to insist my son's language delays were appropriate even several years after his adoption--all due to the fact of his being adopted according to them. Another major issue that would be good to address (not necessarily addressing this to you, just in general) is that of school systems trying to label his needs "ESL" despite the fact that he was 11 months old at adoption and never had expression of a primary language at the time of his adoption. Nor do we do not speak his primary language in our home, just English. I felt that his language delays were due to lack of stimulation as a baby--nobody talked to him, just over and around him as he lay in a crib 23 hours a day. I feel that he would not have developed language skills in his native language either--it seems like the part of his brain that controls speech never properly developed---in any language. Not sure if that is clear?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should read "nor do we speak his native/primary language at home: just English".