March 6, 2007 Feature

New Web Resource Targets Linguistic Diversity

Questions recently posed by visitors to "Ask a Colleague" include:

  • How do we support students with language deficits in L1 and L2, when they are sitting in monolingual classrooms with no bilingual support?
  • Is there research to support the "one parent-one language" system (i.e., Mom asked to speak L1; Dad asked to speak English)? Recently, our pediatricians are telling patients to adhere to this model.
  • How do you determine the L2 dialect of your student and the interpreter?
  • Do you have suggestions or resources to help stimulate the /r/ in Spanish? I see many 5-year-olds with no other artic(ulation) problems.

The Web project, "Clinical Decision Making with Linguistically Diverse Learners," is based in the University of Minnesota's (UM) Department of Speech- Language-Hearing Sciences. The project is designed to help clinicians improve services for children and families who speak languages other than English.

A Growing Need

The project responds to the continued need to guide clinicians in the complex practice of serving linguistically diverse children. These challenges may be especially acute in remote or rural districts, or in areas long characterized by demographic homogeneity where support for linguistically diverse children is not readily available.

In the past decade, traditionally monolingual school districts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas have seen large growth in the number of school-aged learners who speak Spanish, French, Hmong, Somali, Laotian, Vietnamese, Korean, Urdu, Russian, and other languages.

Among the 38,500 students in Minneapolis public schools, more than 90 different languages are spoken in children's homes. Of 32,000 students in Des Moines, IA, public schools, 3,700 students from 51 different language groups are English-language learners. The K-12 Hispanic and Asian populations in Madison, Wisconsin, public schools have grown from 8% in 1991 to 23% in 2007.

"We understand the need for professional practices to reflect these demographic changes," explained Kathryn Kohnert, associate professor at UM and project co-investigator. "Unfortunately, many otherwise seasoned clinicians do not have free access to continuing education because of reduced funding in many employment settings. That need motivated our desire to create a free resource with valid curricula and collegial expertise, even for professionals with limited experience or resources in cultural and linguistic diversity."

Reaching Clinicians in Every State

Kohnert first received funding in 2003-2004 from ASHA's Office of Multicultural Affairs to disseminate some of this information in a statewide training model, which developed "local experts" by mentoring 135 clinicians in 85 Minnesota school districts. She and her colleagues offered a free, three-part lecture series and Web-based threaded discussion forum to address case problems, eligibility requirements, assessment and intervention issues, and other clinical issues related to serving linguistically diverse learners.

Multiple requests to replicate the model in other states led to the current grant initiative. "Instead of repeating our first lecture series, this time we wanted to create a Web-based resource that any clinician could retrieve on demand," Kohnert said. "Our goal is to reach clinicians in every state, attracting more queries and more mentors, so that we expand the national discussion forum on linguistic diversity to draw upon clinical expertise across the country."

To that end, the project has been announced through ASHA special interest divisions, state association presidents and offices, and ASHA state education advocacy leaders. Launched in October, the site has already received universally positive responses from national and international visitors. More than 4,300 visitors have browsed one or more of the learning components, including more than 450 professionals who have completed the self-study tutorial.

Three Learning Modules

The three learning modules include a self-study tutorial, the "Ask a Colleague" discussion forum, and the lecture series.

The self-study tutorial, which includes a skills inventory and a competency-based quiz, covers three segments: "Linguistically Diverse Learners: Typically Developing Children Learning Two Languages;" "Assessment with Linguistically Diverse Learners;" and "Intervention with Linguistically Diverse Learners."

The "Ask a Colleague" threaded Web forum is monitored weekly by expert guest mentors in assessment, IEP/due process guidelines, home programming, classroom consultation, working with interpreters, and other areas. To date, 17 professionals representing schools, private practices, and universities have volunteered to serve as expert guest mentors for the online discussion forum.

Four advanced online lectures will be delivered and archived on the site. Each lecture considers the impact of second language learning on select clinical topics. Peggy Nelson delivered the first lecture on second language learning and classroom acoustics. Joe Reichle addressed autism in second language acquisition and learning. Future lectures scheduled in February and March will focus on cleft palate and fluency.

The site also contains links to useful Web resources that provide general information on serving linguistically diverse learners, as well as language-specific resources for SLPs working with learners who speak Spanish, Hmong, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.

ASHA's project funding ensures that the site will remain active through the end of July 2007, but investigators are seeking corporate support to continue the site beyond that date.

Leslie Glaze, is a speech-language pathologist and adjunct faculty in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota and a co-investigator on this project. For more information, visit www. or e-mail project staff at

cite as: Glaze, L. (2007, March 06). New Web Resource Targets Linguistic Diversity. The ASHA Leader.


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