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This study provided evidence that typically developing children acquiring English exhibit errors on standardized tests that are similar to the performance of monolingual children with specific language impairment.
Background: In an effort to determine whether ELLs may be misdiagnosed as having a language impairment, Paradis and her team explored similarities in grammatical morphology of English spoken by typically developing English Language Learners (ELLs) and English spoken by monolingual children with specific language impairment (SLI).
Hypotheses: The researchers hypothesized that both error patterns and test scores of ELLs would be similar to those of monolingual children with SLI.
Methodology and Participants: Participants included twenty-four typically developing ELLs exposed to and learning English for an average of 9.5 months. Grammar and morphology were assessed via spontaneous language samples and the Test of Early Grammatical Impairment (TEGI).
Conclusion: As anticipated, results revealed that the error patterns and standardized test scores of children learning English as compared to normative data from speakers of Standard American English (SAE) were similar to those of monolingual children with SLI.
Relevance to the Field: This study provided evidence that typically developing children acquiring English exhibit errors on standardized tests that are similar to the performance of monolingual children with specific language impairment. This study also gives more detailed examples of common errors made by ELLs versus children with SLI. This evidence demonstrates just how inappropriate standardized tests are for ELLs and bilinguals. Paradis shows why standardized test scores are at the heart of the current crisis in special education relating to over referral and misdiagnosis of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds. As a result, it is of utmost importance to develop good clinical judgment about the population you work with so that informed and accurate decisions can be made regarding diagnosis.
Paradis, J. (2005). Grammatical morphology in children learning English as a second language: Implications of similarities with specific language impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 172-187.