Provision of Instruction in English as a Second Language by Speech-Language Pathologists in School Settings

Technical Report

ASHA Multicultural Issues Board

About this Document

Members of the Multicultural Issues Board who participated in the writing of this document are Lynda Campbell (Chair, 1995–1996), Juanita Sims Doty (Chair, 1997-present), Lisa Alford, Ilene Clingmon, Brian Goldstein, Hortencia Kayser, Gloria Martin, Pauline Mashima, Maurice Mendel, Emma Muñoz, Catharine Nagayda (NSSLHA Representative), Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, Bryan Scott, Diane Scott (ex-officio, 1993–1996), Vicki R. Deal-Williams (ex-officio, 1997-present), Christine Vining, Toya Wyatt, Vic S. Gladstone (Monitoring Vice President, 1993–1995), L. Gay Ratcliff (Monitoring Vice President, 1996-present).

Technical Report: Role of SLPs in Working With ESL Instructors in School Settings


Over the past 2 decades in the school systems of the United States there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse populations who are developing English proficiency [1] (Adler, 1991; Peters-Johnson, 1992; Roseberry-McKibbin, 1994; Roseberry-McKibbin & Eicholtz, 1994). Increasingly, speech-language pathologists are being requested to work in a role traditionally assigned to instructors of English as a Second Language (ESL). Due to the growing population of students with limited English proficiency and the increasing requests for speech-language pathologists to function in this role, speech-language pathologists are requesting clarification on their role in working with ESL in school settings.

The purpose of this technical report is to define the role of speech-language pathologists relative to the provision of ESL instruction in school settings. Knowledge of this role will ensure that speech-language pathologists:

  • work within their scope of practice, knowledge base, skills, competencies, and education;

  • supplement and/or enhance service delivery systems;

  • appropriately identify and serve students needing speech, language and hearing services, and

  • comply with the ASHA Code of Ethics (ASHA, 1994), state and federal mandates and school district policy.

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Qualification and Competencies for the Management of Children and Youth Developing English Proficiency

It is beyond the scope of this paper to present guidelines on the clinical management of individuals who are developing English proficiency who exhibit communication disorders (for more detail in this area see, for example, ASHA, 1985; Battle, 1983; Kayser, 1995; Langdon and Cheng, 1992; Roseberry-McKibbin, 1994). Speech-language pathologists providing services to limited English proficient children with communication disorders must be knowledgeable of school district policy, state and federal laws (e.g., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), first and second language acquisition, culturally appropriate assessment methods and intervention techniques, and strategies for working with families and other professionals. The speech-language pathologist also should know the process and procedures for identifying, placing, and serving students with special needs, who are limited English proficient.

In providing services to children and youth who are developing English proficiency, speech-language pathologists should follow already-mandated guidelines, competencies, and definitions outlined in Position Paper: Social Dialects (ASHA, 1983), and Clinical Management of Communicatively Handicapped Minority Language Populations (ASHA, 1985), Scope of Practice, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (ASHA, 19990), Preferred Practice Patterns for the Professions of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (ASHA, 1992), and Definitions of Communication Disorders and Variations (ASHA, 1993). If the provider of speech and language services is a bilingual speech-language pathologist, then the professional should meet guidelines set forth in Bilingual Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (ASHA, 1989) as well as applicable federal and state requirements.

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The Speech-Language Pathologist's Role in ESL Instruction

ESL instruction should be provided only by professionals with appropriate training and experience. The required knowledge, skills and competencies for providing such service may extend beyond those provided in communication sciences and disorders preservice educational training programs. ESL instruction requires academic preparation and experience in such areas as second language acquisition theory, comparative linguistics, and ESL methodologies, assessment, and practicum. Requirements for providing ESL services vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Speech-language pathologists who have received the requisite education within a specific jurisdiction may serve as ESL instructors. However, speech-language pathologists without the requisite preparation should not provide direct ESL instruction. In those instances, speech-language pathologists should use their professional knowledge and skills in collaboration with ESL instructors. Speech-language pathologists can play a role with providers of ESL instruction, at any or all of the three stages of service delivery: pre-assessment, assessment, and intervention. These roles are not mandatory but constitute possible ways in which speech-language pathologists and ESL instructors may choose to collaborate.

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In the pre-assessment stage, the speech-language pathologist may:

  1. collaborate with an ESL instructor on issues such as language development and codeswitching in children who are developing English proficiency; and

  2. provide information to and gather data from the ESL instructor. This may include, but is not limited to, information on:

    1. child socialization; and

    2. patterns of first and second language development, and language use in the classroom and home;

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In the assessment stage, the speech-language pathologist may:

  1. consult with the provider of ESL instruction on issues such as the child's performance on testing completed by the ESL instructor, and the child's performance on testing completed by the speech-language pathologist;

  2. share evaluation results after the assessment regarding the child's performance;

  3. collaborate with the ESL instructor in developing an appropriate intervention plan including:

    1. adapting curricula to meet the child's specific needs; such as, modifying assignments, activities, and tests;

    2. considering the student's individual needs and learning style;

    3. selecting appropriate materials and instructional strategies; and

    4. involving caregivers in the child's program of instruction.

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During intervention with children and youth with communication disorders, the speech-language pathologist should continue to consult with and collaborate with the ESL Instructor. Collaboration between the speech-language pathologist and ESL professionals during intervention is an essential aspect of the educational and therapeutic process and will allow both professionals to share in planning, implementation, and evaluation. This collaboration can occur in many ways, ranging from informal conversations to formal, planned activities. By collaborating, the professionals should:

  1. share ideas and resources as well as plan and work together to coordinate goals and objectives;

  2. evaluate progress toward speech and/or language intervention goals and English language development goals;

  3. coordinate the instruction of English language development with the intervention for the communication disorder;

  4. consider cultural and linguistic factors that affect service delivery; and

  5. prepare for and participate in IEP/IFSP reviews.

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The Speech-Language Pathologist's Role in the Absence of an ESL Program

In the absence of an ESL program, the speech-language pathologist should provide ESL instruction only if they have the required knowledge and skills. In the absence of this knowledge and skill, the speech-language pathologist should:

  1. act as a consultant to the child's primary caregivers, classroom teacher, and other professionals; and

  2. advocate for the child to professionals and other agencies.

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Given current demographics, economics, service delivery approaches, and federal and state laws, speech-language pathologists may be requested to deliver ESL instruction to children with limited English proficiency. Only speech-language pathologists who possess the knowledge and skills required for ESL instruction should provide the primary instruction. In the absence of the knowledge and skills required for providing direct instruction in ESL, speech-language pathologists should collaborate and consult with ESL instructors. The specialized competencies necessary to deliver ESL instruction to children and youth developing English proficiency and the required education should not be assumed to be possessed by all speech-language pathologists. It is important for speech-language pathologists to consider their education, knowledge, and skills, and the appropriate ASHA policy statements and guidelines when serving students developing English proficiency.

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Adler, S. (1991). Assessment of language proficiency of limited English proficient speakers: Implications for the speech-language specialist. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools, 22, 12–18.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1996, Spring). Scope of practice in speech-language pathology. Asha, 38(Suppl. 16), 16–20.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1994, March). Code of ethics. Asha, 36(Suppl. 13), 1–2.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1993, March). Definitions of communication disorders and variations. Asha, 35(Suppl. 10), 40–41.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Preferred practice patterns for the professions of speech-language pathology and adiology. Rockville, MD: Author.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1990). Scope of practice, speech-language pathology and audiology. Asha, 32(Suppl. 2), 1–2.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1989). Bilingual speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Asha, 31, 93.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1985). Clinical management of communicatively handicapped minority language populations. Asha, 27(6), 29–32.

American Speech-Language Hearing Association. (1983). Position paper: Social dialects and implications of the position on social dialects. Asha, 25(9), 23–27.

Battle, D. (1993). Communication disorders in multicultural opulations. Boston: Andover Medical Publisher.

Kayser, H. (1995). Assessment of speech and language impairments in bilingual children. In H. Kayser (Ed.), Bilingual speech-language pathology: an Hispanic focus (pp. 243–264). San Diego: Singular Publishing Group.

Langdon, H. (1992). Cheng, L. L. (Ed.). Hispanic children and adults with communication disorders: Assessment and intervention. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers.

Roseberry-McKibbin, C. (1994). Assessment and intervention for children with limited English proficiency and language disorders. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 3(3), 77–88.

Peters-Johnson, C. (1992, May). Professional practices: Perspectives on multicultural issues. Asha, 34, 14.

Roseberry-McKibbin, C. A. (1994). Assessment and intervention for children with limited English proficiency and language disorders. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 3(3), 77–88.

Roseberry-McKibbin, C. A., & Eicholtz, G. E. (1994). Serving children with limited English proficiency in the schools: A national survey. Language. Speech. and Hearing Services in the Schools, 25, 156–164.

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[1] This term describes individuals for whom English is not their home language

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Index terms: English as a second language, schools

Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1998). Provision of instruction in english as a second language by speech-language pathologists in school settings [Technical Report]. Available from

© Copyright 1998 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.


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