Posted by: Dr. Raúl Rojas, Assistant Professor – UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders
Bilingual language research is an emerging and vital new field of research, and I’m glad to say that Callier is helping to lead the way. As the number of English language learners (ELL) increases among our school-age population, we need to disentangle what factors help these children progress and how to best identify developing communication disorders.
Our team of UT Dallas faculty members is attempting to learn more about how ELLs develop their language skills inside and outside school. We want to help develop effective testing methods, so speech-language pathologists can identify children who may be facing speech or language development issues. Early intervention by well-trained therapists can make a major difference in a child’s ability to succeed in school and life, whether they speak one language or several.
I grew up as an ELL, attending school on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. I understand the importance of having teachers recognize the special challenges faced by children who are not just learning how to communicate but attempting to do so in more than one language, while also striving to keep up with their peers academically.
The massive increase in the number of ELLs in public schools reported in the 2010 U.S. Census is projected to accelerate unabated until at least 2050. Statistics indicate that a sizable percentage of these children, as with any population, will be diagnosed with highly treatable communication disorders. I am confident the research pursued at Callier and other communication centers will go a long way toward finding the children who need therapy, and helping them get this extra help as early as possible. We need to prevent disorders from staying hidden behind a language barrier, lost in translation.