Language Disorder Versus Language Difference: A Practical Approach to Effective Evaluation

Mark Strait

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Course Credits: 0.2 ASHA CEUs (2 hours)

Participants will review bilingualism and disperse the misconceptions, review the implications of identifying ELL students with a disability, and develop understanding to describe the evaluation process for bilingual students using standardized and non-standardized measures through ELL case studies.

Instructor Information

Patricia M. Vaselli, M.A. CCC-SLP – Patricia is a bilingual speech language pathologist, with over 20 years of international practice in providing pediatric diagnostic evaluations and therapy in both clinical and educational settings. Also skilled in providing diagnostic evaluations and therapy for adults, with certification as an audiologist in Brazil. She is a graduate of the West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she is an adjunct professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department. Extensive experience in clinical supervision for graduate students and mentorship for clinical fellows. Expertise in diagnostic evaluation for the bilingual population. Licensed in Pennsylvania, maintains a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and Pennsylvania Teacher Certification. Member of the ASHA SIG 14, Special Interest Group – Cultural and Linguistic Diversity.

Laura Hum Mitchell, M.A., CCC-SLP – Laura is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked both nationally and internationally.   With 12 years of experience, Laura has provided services in pediatrics, geriatrics, and mentoring. Laura was Area Lead Mentor for EBS Healthcare for the past five years before becoming a Clinical Manager for Manatee County and Hillsborough County in Florida.  She provides mentoring and support for new Clinical Fellows while acting as a field liaison for The Stepping Stones Group-EBS Healthcare, providing Speech Language services to students, and offering strategies and supports to our SSG-EBS therapists in the West Coast Florida region. She has presented on Medical Errors and has collaborated on various topics on SSG’s monthly Bloom Roundtable discussions for Clinical Fellows. Laura has participated in the pilot years of EBS United’s Volunteer Merida, Mexico program and the Immersion program in Costa Rica. Laura has spent summers in Delaware providing educational support and services to children with moderate to severe autism in the State-funded Delaware Autistic Program. Her background in Linguistics and Applied Language Studies provided her opportunities to teach English as a Second Language in South Korea for over two years had a direct impact on her interest in becoming an SLP. She is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), an ASHA SIG 16 Affiliate and an ACE awardee. Laura is a graduate of the Edinboro State University of Pennsylvania and is currently licensed in Florida. Currently, she works in a PreK diagnostic center and works PRN in the SNF setting.  When Laura is not working, she is volunteering in her community or travelling with her husband.

Financial Disclosure: Patricia Vaselli and Laura Hum Mitchell are employees of the The Stepping Stones Group and receive compensation for their positions.
Non-Financial Disclosure: No relevant non-financial relationship exists

Learner Objectives

By the conclusion of this course, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe bilingualism, second language acquisition and myths about bilingualism.
  2. Describe language differences and disorders, understanding the implications of identifying ELL students with a disability.
  3. Describe the speech and language evaluation process for bilingual students, using standardized and non-standardized measures.
  4. Discuss case studies of bilingual students to properly diagnose, describe strengths and weaknesses.


  • 10 minutes: Introductions and review agenda/learning outcomes/disclosures
  • 5 minutes: ASHA SLP Roles and responsibilities
  • 5 minutes: ASHA surveys
  • 20 minutes: Defining Bilingualism, myths, second language acquisition
  • 10 minutes: BICS and CALP, language disorder vs language difference
  • 10 minutes: Spanish influence/ Phonemic inventories
  • 30 minutes: Practical bilingual valuation approach
  • 20 minutes: Case Studies – discussion
  • 10 minutes: Questions