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Subject: Does my 7 year old bilingual child need a speech therapist?
Question: I am English, my husband is Italian and we are raising our 3
children in Italy. My eldest boy, who is in the second year of
elementary school, is slow to respond to questions, often looking
as though he is searching for the right word and his sentences
start with a lot of 'um's'. His Italian teacher has advised me to
take him to see a speech therapist as he has a very high capacity
for work and she feels that his inability to express himself is
holding him back. His first language is English and he only really
started to speak Italian properly 2 years ago, even though he
started nursery here at the age of 3. I would like to know if this
is a normal phase for a bilingual child. Thank you.

Reply: I wasn’t clear about a number of things:

– Is your boy being schooled only in Italian?
– His “Italian teacher”: is this a teacher of Italian, or a local teacher of any other school subject?
– Is your boy “slow to respond to questions” in all school subjects?
– Is he “slow to respond to questions” in English, too?

What I’m trying to work out is whether any problems that your son’s teacher(s) may have noticed show in both of his languages or only in (school) Italian.

If the former, it may be reassuring to check with a speech-language clinician, in which case please make sure that the clinician understands assessment of multilingual children. A speech-language disorder affects all of the languages of a child.

If the latter, your boy probably just needs time to get used to using Italian in the academic ways that school dictates. Differential uses of the same language don’t come ready-made, they need to be practised.

Do contact me privately, if you’re still wondering about anything. My children were raised multilingually, too.

Madalena
Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
 
Date: 25-Apr-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Does my 7 year old bilingual child need a speech therapist?    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (28-Apr-2013)

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