Reconceptualizing practice with multilingual children with speech sound disorders: people, practicalities and policy

Sarah Verdon*, Sharynne McLeod, Sandie Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background The speech and language therapy profession is required to provide services to increasingly multilingual caseloads. Much international research has focused on the challenges of speech and language therapists' (SLTs) practice with multilingual children. Aims To draw on the experience and knowledge of experts in the field to: (1) identify aspirations for practice, (2) propose recommendations for working effectively with multilingual children with speech sound disorders, and (3) reconceptualize understandings of and approaches to practice. Methods & Procedures Fourteen members of the International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children's Speech met in Cork, Ireland, to discuss SLTs' practice with multilingual children with speech sound disorders. Panel members had worked in 18 countries and spoke nine languages. Transcripts of the 6-h discussion were analysed using Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a heuristic framework to make visible the reality and complexities of SLTs' practice with multilingual children. Outcomes & Results Aspirations and recommendations for reconceptualizing approaches to practice with multilingual children with speech sound disorders included: (1) increased training for working with multilingual children, their families, and interpreters, (2) increased training for transcribing speech in many languages, (3) increased time and resources for SLTs working with multilingual children and (4) use of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF-CY). Conclusions & Implications The reality and complexities of practice identified in this paper highlight that it is not possible to formulate and implement one 'gold standard' method of assessment and intervention for all multilingual children with speech sound disorders. It is possible, however, to underpin practice with a framework that ensures comprehensive assessment, accurate diagnosis and effective intervention. This paper proposes that by working towards the aspirations of the Expert Panel, SLTs can be empowered to facilitate appropriate services for multilingual children regardless of the context in which they live and the languages they speak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-62
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • multilingual
  • bilingual
  • speech sound disorders
  • qualitative
  • cultural historical activity theory
  • practice


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