The Role Of Culture And Language In Developmental Delays

By: Luis Torres

Are children in bilingual households at higher risk of language delays?
45 million Americans speak a language other than English at home and more than 19 million Americans have only a limited amount of English proficiency. Dr. Glenn Flores of the Center for Advancement of Urban Children in the Medical College of Wisconsin suggests that "Latino children have a higher prevalence and severity of depression, phobias, anxiety/panic, school refusal, and disturbed relationships with other children.5 Nevertheless, Latino children are significantly less likely than white and African American children to be hospitalized for mental illness." What are the implications of
Culture and Language on developmental delays in Latino children?

What does current research say about developmental delays of Latino children?
Although much research still needs to be done, anthropoligical and medical journals note that "ethnocultural differences exist in parental expectations of normal child development, which can have key consequences in seeking care and screening for behavioral/developmental abnormalities." Parents who misjudge the level at which their children should be performing, might in fact be preventing their child from getting the appropriate care and attention needed to address and meet the needs of autistic children or children with other severe medical and educational needs.

What role does culture and language play in developmental delays?
Hand in hand however, is a doctor's failure to accurately diagnose a child's need or condition because of the existing language and cultural barriers. As Dr. Flores further notes,

Language issues profoundly impact quality, outcomes, and patient satisfaction in
pediatric care. When caring for LEP families, monolingual clinicians should use
trained medical interpreters and published guidelines for interpreter use or risk
poor adherence, misdiagnoses, medical errors, and disastrous outcomes. A
methodologically flawed study suggested that "language minority" children
attending bilingual or monolingual English preschools rapidly lose native language
proficiency, resulting in disruption of parent-child communication and a high-risk
developmental course. More recent studies demonstrate that Latino children
attending bilingual preschool, compared with those remaining at home, show
equivalent gains in Spanish-language development but greater gains in English
proficiency. Parents should be encouraged to raise their children in bilingual

Implications for Educators
Teachers take a central role in being facilitators between doctors and parents in particular situations. Teachers can provide detailed accounts and specific examples of
learning needs and can serve to bridge the gap between gaps in services because of lack of communication.

The Official Journal of the American Office of Pediatrics
Cultural and Linguistic Determinants in the Diagnosis and Management of Developmental Delay in a 4-Year-Old