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New speech tool tailors hearing care for children with diverse languages

NextSense has developed a speech and language assessment specifically for children who use languages other than English, to make sure they get tailored care and optimal outcomes.
Kowaider family supported by NextSense
  • Hearing

NextSense has developed a speech and language assessment protocol specifically for children who use languages other than English (LOTE). The approach will help us tailor our support to children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and help them achieve the best results possible in developing their speech, language, and communication.

NextSense Best Practice Lead for Cochlear Implant Rehabilitation Dr Sharon Hurt says the assessment protocol is drawn from the latest research and current clinical best practice. We review our protocols regularly in line with developments in the field.

Sharon shared the protocol recently with other professionals at the Australian Hearing Hub’s Hearing Interest Group, which met in June to discuss the topic of cultural and linguistic diversity.

‘Our approach to assessing children from diverse backgrounds ensures speech and language intervention sessions are tailored to their individual needs and we continue to monitor spoken language development in both English and LOTE,’ Sharon says.

‘This is so, right from their first assessment, the spoken language and communication of children who use LOTE can be assessed in a way that addresses their language/s other than English as well as English and collects big-picture information on the child and family background.’

The assessment protocol includes culturally safe and linguistically appropriate assessment tools and is one of the ways NextSense meets the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

We developed all of our assessment protocols, including this one for children using LOTE, to ensure a consistent, best-practice approach for our teachers and therapists to support people with hearing loss from diverse backgrounds.

— Dr Sharon Hurt

Because speech and language assessment measures for children who use English as their only language are not standardised on children who use LOTE, these measures can’t adequately capture the unique development of children’s understanding and use of their home language where the home language is not English.

With the assistance of a trained interpreter, our person-centred approach to children who learn English as well as another language, or who use a language other than English as their only language, is to collect information such as the child’s exposure to and proficiency in the spoken language, family and culture, educational history and communication development.

Inge Kaltenbrunn, NextSense Best Practice Lead, Early Intervention (hearing) says,
‘children are assessed differently, according to their age and language proficiency, to help identify if a child is on track with their speech and language development, if they have a delay related to hearing loss or are at risk of having an underlying language disorder.

‘Australia is a multicultural nation, with the 2021 Census data showing that almost 6 million people (22.8%) reported using a language other than English at home,’ Inge says.

‘It also shows 872,000 people spoke English not well or not at all. This represents 15.1% of the 5.8 million people who used another language at home.’

The 2022 National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) dashboard for hearing loss also shows that of the 25,134 active participants with a primary disability of a ‘hearing impairment’ at 30 September 2022, more than one in five (22%) identify as being from a culturally diverse background

‘That’s why we not only address the needs of children who use one or more languages other than English in the home and in their community, we equally address the needs of adults in our cochlear implant program,’ Sharon Hurt says.

‘We work with interpreters, family members and significant others who speak a language other than English to ensure there are no language barriers in cochlear implant rehabilitation sessions, so our adult clients can achieve their goals.’

Sharon shared the NextSense clinical protocol for children with hearing loss who use LOTE at the Australian Hearing Hub’s Hearing Interest (HINT) Group on 22 June which addressed the topic of cultural and linguistic diversity.

Sharon is a member of the Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) working party that is reviewing the 2016 SPA Position statement and Clinical practice guidelines for working in a culturally, linguistically diverse society. An update is likely to be shared with speech pathologists in coming months.

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