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SLT and Parents: Information on bilingual language development

Parents of bilingual children are often given misleading advice regarding their child’s bilingual language development and how to manage concerns that may arise with regards to this. We asked parents attending our service what misperceptions they had encountered and if they felt these had become barriers to accessing speech-language therapy. In addition, we asked what messages they would like to convey to parents and professionals in order to prevent other families experiencing similar problems.

From the information given to us by parents, we created a poster and three bookmarks to share their messages, which we have shared/plan to share as widely as possible throughout the region.

PPI helped the project to

  • Improve Quality
  • Improve Safety
  • Increase Ownership
  • Education/Sharing Information


This case study is based on engagement work with families of bilingual children who had received misleading advice regarding their child’s bilingual development. Their experiences allowed us to assess and explore their concerns that arose as a result of this and how this could be best managed. These issues were openly discussed with parents who attended our clinics, where we were able to directly engage with those who had received a referral in order to understand more clearly what barriers currently exist in accessing speech-language therapy services. Their experiences formed the basis of a promotional campaign which aimed to convey to other parents and professionals what problems they had endured, so that they may learn from and be able to avoid similar issues in the future.


Aim of involvement

  • This case study aimed to discover parents’ experiences and thoughts on how to improve information regarding their child’s bilingual development.

Method(s) of Involvement

One-to-One interview


There were no apparent difficulties emerging from this work, which may be a result of the lower level of engagement carried out. Potentially, if this work was to develop into a more formalised co-production and/or consultation process, then other challenges may be identified.

Outcomes due to involvement

We surveyed parents who attended our clinics over a two-month period and found that common themes in misperceptions were that :

• bilingual children are always late-talkers [learning two languages takes twice the time] • parents should not speak the home language [as this is confusing] • parents should speak English to their child [as this is the language they will need in school – particularly problematic for those families who select Irish medium education]

Immediate outcomes:

We have shared/plan to share the poster and bookmarks as widely as possible – through GP forums, paediatric doctors’ forums, the trainee GP website, education department, regional and national speech-language therapy groups, early years groups and health visiting services. We work closely with the NIHSCIS [interpreting service] and have asked interpreters to share bookmarks when they attend child appointments with families across the region.



Further Information

For further information, please contact:

Florence King (Assistant Speech-Language Therapy Manager)

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Tel: 02895047658

Email: florence.king@belfasttrust.hscni.net