2012-2013 Projects on Multicultural Activities

Development of Language and Cognitive Assessment Protocols, and Linguistic Resources for Multicultural/Multilingual Vulnerable Seniors Living in Poverty

Henrike Blumenfeld
San Diego State University

Research has shown that seniors with low proficiency in the majority language may be less engaged in society. To complicate this, current theories of bilingualism suggest that age-related cognitive decline may further reduce the ability to communicate in a low-proficiency language. Proficiency in English has been associated with better mental and physical health outcomes. Effective communication with service providers may be particularly critical for low socioeconomic status (SES) seniors who have fewer resources at their disposal. Therefore, it is paramount that professionals who work with culturally and linguistically diverse low-SES elders have the tools to reliably obtain information related to linguistic and cognitive profiles.

The two main objectives of the proposed research were:

  • develop a reliable language experience and proficiency questionnaire and linguistic/cognitive assessment protocols in key languages for linguistically diverse low-SES seniors,
  • promote language maintenance and improvement in bilingual seniors through conversation groups and English-as-a-second-language classes and to evaluate the benefit to cognitive-linguistic function in seniors who participate in such programming.

During the funding period, an interview-based language background questionnaire for multilingual seniors was developed, and linguistic/cognitive assessment was conducted across an extensive set of tests and across languages. In addition, a functional English as a second language (ESL) curriculum was developed specific to the needs of seniors at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center (Specific-Purpose English Communication System for Seniors, SPECSS).

Preliminary analyses on syntactic processing in older English monolinguals—and older native speakers of Mandarin, Spanish, and Tagalog—suggest that structural differences across languages result in key differences in the relation between sentence types that are frequently used as part of diagnostic and treatment approaches in agrammatic aphasia.

Additional data analyses, still in progress, are likely to yield important information on

  • the validity of the new oral interview on language experience and proficiency,
  • the relation between cognitive and linguistic skills, 
  • the relation between skills in native and second languages.

Phonological Awareness Training for Educators of Diverse, Low-Income Children

Maura Moyle
Marquette University

The purpose of this project was to refine the phonological awareness training program initially developed during the Wisconsin Reading Acquisition Program (WRAP), titled the Phonological Awareness Curriculum for Educators (PACE), and ultimately produce a valuable and practical training resource for SLPs. The specific project objectives included: 1) refine the PACE curriculum to focus on the elements that were not effective in prior trainings and increase the program's efficiency; 2) pilot the revised PACE program with six urban Head Start teachers to test its effectiveness and identify further refinements; and 3) create a final version of PACE for free distribution.

A phonological awareness curriculum for the project was designed. Six teachers from three urban childcare centers participated. Pre-assessments of the teachers were completed and included the Comprehensive Assessment of Phonological Processing (CTOPP; Wagner, Torgesen & Rashotte, 1999), a phonemic awareness assessment developed by Dr. Melanie Schuele (see Spencer et al,, 2008), and an assessment of phonological awareness and phonetics developed for the project.

The teachers participated in 15 hours of training. Post-assessments were conducted using the same tests as in the pre-assessment. A final version of the phonological awareness curriculum for distribution will be produced. Participating teachers made substantial progress during the course of the project in their phonological awareness skills. Observations in their classrooms following the training indicated that the teachers were targeting phonological awareness to a much greater extent and with a higher degree of sophistication than when the project began. 

Rethinking Speech and Language Screenings for Head Start Preschoolers in Mississippi

Brandi Newkirk
Jackson State University

For the past 30 years, speech and language screenings in local Head Start and preschool centers in Jackson, MS have involved the use of the original 1978 edition of the Fluharty Preschool Speech and Language Screening Test (Fluharty, 1978). In 2001, an updated version of the Fluharty, the Fluharty-2, was published and its manual reports improved psychometric properties and clinical utility. Nevertheless, the local Head Start system opted to continue the use of the original 1978 edition of the Fluharty in the speech/language screenings. Reasons for the continued use of the original Fluharty included faster administration, cost efficiency, and anecdotal reports of better performance by the children. This project examined the use of both the Fluharty (1978) and the Fluharty-2 (2001) with the purpose of making data-driven changes in the screening program.

Three- and four-year-old children from low-income and middle-income preschools were tested. On the Fluharty (1978),Articulation and Language fail/pass rates did not differ by gender, age, or SES. On the Fluharty-2 (2001), Articulation fail/pass rates did not differ by gender, age, or SES. On the Fluharty-2 (2001), Language fail/pass rates did not differ by gender. However, on the Fluharty-2 (2001), Language fail/pass rates differed by age and by SES. On the Fluharty-2, the fail rates on the language section were higher for three-year-olds than four-year-olds and higher for children from low-income preschools than children from middle-income preschools. Use of the results of this project provided the data to make evidence-based recommendations – a key component of evidence-based practice – to the local Head Start system on how to improve the speech/language screening program.

In addition to impacting the Head Start system and the preschoolers served, this project also positively impacted the Communicative Disorders students who participated in the project. By the end of the project, the Communicative Disorders students were able to: a) demonstrate knowledge of important principles of speech/language screening; b) competently administer different standardized speech/language screening tests; c), demonstrate knowledge of cultural and linguistic biases associated with standardized speech and language tests; and d) gain practical testing experience working within urban, culturally and linguistically diverse preschool centers. Finally, the students' involvement in the project taught them and has allowed them to experience key components of evidence-based decision-making and practice.

Role of First Language Differences on English Language Measures Used in Adult Neurorehabilitation

Yasmeen Faroqi-Shah
University of Maryland, College Park


2012–2013 Review Panel

Rhoda Agin
Rajneet Bajnath
Candice Costa
Gina Crosby-Quinatoa
Emmylou Garza-Prisby
Ana Claudia Harten
Li Hsieh
Lucía I. Méndez

ASHA Corporate Partners