Providing an equitable service to bilingual children in the UK: a review

Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2003 Oct-Dec;38(4):351-77. doi: 10.1080/1368282031000156888.


Background: The UK is a multicultural, multilingual society and the majority of paediatric speech and language therapists in England have at least one bilingual child on their caseload. There are many imperatives driving the profession to provide an equitable service for bilingual children. Evidence is beginning to emerge, however, that bilingual children with specific language impairment are not being identified and are, therefore, not accessing services. The situation facing clinicians in the UK is not unique: it is mirrored around the world.

Aims: This paper reviews the literature relating to speech and language services for bilingual children and begins by providing an overview of the forces driving the need to provide equity of service. All aspects of the therapeutic process are then examined, from referral to therapy, in order to identify features that are regarded as best practice. Whilst the focus is on delivery of services in the UK, research findings from around the world are considered.

Main contribution: Certain themes emerged during the review and their implications are discussed. In particular, the need for assessment tools, training and research is highlighted.

Conclusions: Features indicative of best practice are highlighted and tentative suggestions made that would enable services to address the challenges of serving bilingual paediatric caseloads.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Health Services / supply & distribution*
  • Developmental Disabilities / therapy
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Language Disorders / therapy*
  • Multilingualism*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Speech Disorders / therapy*
  • United Kingdom