vOne of the most difficult problems parents can face when raising children with more than one language is the difficulty in getting accurate assessments and support if a child needs speech therapy. Unfortunately, most training programs for speech therapists do not address bilingual speech development, and few therapists have access to resources for bilingual children.
When advising parents with concerns, I always emphasize two aspects of this issue. Firstly, you need to have the child evaluated in both/all languages, to get a clear picture of their development. It isn’t as easy as you may think to determine the child’s “strongest” language – they may have more vocabulary in one, but better grammar in the other. The best case scenario is one speech therapist who can evaluate/support in both languages. That is usually not possible, so the next best choice is two or more speech therapists, working in their own languages. In this case, it’s important to work with speech therapists who are “bilingual friendly”, so that they don’t treat your child as a monolingual. However, finding local therapists who can work in other languages isn’t always easy.
A few months ago, I was introduced to a new system of telespeech, an online platform called “TinyEYE”. TinyEYE was created in Canada, where there are many remote populations where children have no access to speech therapy services. It provides professional services via Internet, with a qualified and trained speech therapist assigned to each child. This is a fantastic development not only for remote populations, but also for the international bilingual community.
TinyEYE is now working in Europe, based in the Netherlands. At this time, they can offer online therapy in Dutch, English and French, and are working on translating the materials into other languages. The breadth and depth of the therapy options available through the platform are impressive, as is the tracking system which allows parents, teachers and therapists to collaborate through the platform. An extra bonus is that it is great fun for kids, so getting them to participate should be easy.
If you are a bilingual family having difficulty finding a qualified speech therapist local to you who can work in one of these languages, it’s worth a visit to TinyEYE to see if they can help you. TinyEYE also works with schools, so if your child’s school needs access to therapists working in other languages, this could also be useful for them.
I’ve been working with bilingual families for many years, and this development is one of the most positive I’ve seen in terms of helping families access resources for their children. And that will only improve, as TinyEYE increases the number of languages available in their system.
NB This is not a paid advertisement – I’m writing about TinyEYE because I think it is a great resource for families.