To: Mr. X, Principal,
George Washington Elementary School
Anytown, Any State 01234
Dear Mr. X:
My daughter _____________ is ________ yeas old
and she was adopted from _________ __ months ago. She had
a speech and language assessment in her native tongue on arrival,
but the remedial services for her were denied.
It is quite typical of the 3-4 yeas old internationally
adopted children to have borderline receptive and expressive
language skills in their native language at adoption, accompanied
by some deficits in speech production (articulation and fluency).
Many of these children have difficulty performing language-based
reasoning tasks: making inferences, identifying categories,
completing analogies and answering hypothetical questions
- the tasks that are expected to be mastered by the preschool
These deficits may not seem to be of high significance/severity,
and that would be true for a child with an unremarkable psycho-educational
and social history. My child's background, however, is drastically
different. She came from a dysfunctional family where she
spent the first ---------------years of her life. Later on,
at the age of ____________, she was institutionalized (placed
in an orphanage) where she stayed until her adoption at the
age of ___________. Thus, the bulk of her most sensitive period
for language development had been spent in a dysfunctional
home and/or in an institutional setting. As a post-institutional
child, my daughter was and still is more predisposed to language
deficits during her school years, even if these deficits do
not seem very severe at this moment.
Another critical point concerns my child's language
dominance. She was dominant in the __________ language at
the time of her adoption. Most likely, this is no longer the
case. According to the available research (Gindis 2008), she
is likely to lose her native language, both receptive and
expressive, within the three to five months of her stay in
the United States. Thus, it is very likely that she has lost
the bulk of her native language already. The crucial point,
however, is that according to the available research and practice,
internationally adopted children usually follow a subtractive
model of the second language learning, in which losing the
first language occurs much faster than mastering the new one,
and acquisition of the cognitive language skills is lagging
behind the communicative skills very significantly.
If my daughter's language skills are to be tested
now, three months later, in both languages, she is likely
to be English dominant, with the overall test results being
lower than those demonstrated after her arrival to the United
States; this is despite the fact that my daughter's chronological
age has increased. This expected drop in her language performance
is likely due to her very speedy loss of her native language
and a much slower acquisition of English. The truth is this
gap will widen as the time progresses.
Without the speech/language services in place,
my daughter may do fine in kintergarten, as she will most
likely demonstrate adequate interpersonal communication skills.
However, she is likely to face huge deficits later on when
she is expected to show mastery of cognitive language. As
Gindis (2005) indicates, it is very common for children who
were adopted before the school age to do well in kindergarten,
with no obvious academic problems until the end of the first
grade/the beginning of the second grade when the teacher begins
reporting the student's difficulty understanding complex stories,
following multi-sequential instructions or understanding higher
level reasoning questions the very same issues that my daughter
had difficulty with during the language test at the time of
her initial evaluation.
It is extremely important to understand that
my daughter's background is different from the background
of most of the children in the school system. She is not a
typical bilingual child growing up in a bilingual family.
If my daughter is not provided with speech/language services
now, the valuable time will be lost and her deficits in high
level reasoning skills will resurface with the increased intensity.
It is my strong conviction that the speech/language services
are a must, not a luxury for my child and should be provided
before she fails now in the English language.
Abrupt Native Language Loss in International Adoptees
Advance for Speech/Language Pathologists and Audiologists
Gindis, B. (1999) Language-Related
Issues for International Adoptees and Adoptive Families.
In: T. Tepper, L. Hannon, D. Sandstrom, Eds. "International
Adoption: Challenges and Opportunities." PNPIC, Meadow
Lands , PA. , pp. 98-108.