Once in a while
we hear about cases of Speech/Language testing of internationally adopted
children using a translator. While it may look like it's better than
no testing at all, in fact it can cause a series problem for the child.
Below Dr. Gindis analysis such case to alert parents in similar situations
to possible lines of defense.
Galina is adopted at the age of 9 years and 5 months
from an orphanage in Russia. I have completed her psycho-educational
evaluation in her native language two weeks after her arrival in the
US. In her motherland Galina was recognized as a child with learning
disability and language impairment and received special education
(speech/ language) services. My evaluation confirmed Learning Disorder
- Not Otherwise Specified, (DSM-lV-TR code 315.9) and Receptive and
Expressive Language Disorder, (DSM-lV-TR code 314.01). Speech and
language therapy was recommended.
Three months after my assessment, the school made an
attempt to administer a speech and language evaluation through an
interpreter (no Russian speaking S/L pathologist was found) with the
goal "to determine Galina's qualification for speech services".
The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, 4th edition,
was administered in the English language. An interpreter translated
instructions and test items into Russian. Galina answered in Russian.
The interpreter translated her answers back into English. A speech
pathologist assigned the scores to Galina's answers. As the result
of this "procedure" Galina obtained a scaled score of 95
(Average). The conclusion was made that "Galina does not meet
All of the above might pass for a joke but unfortunately it was a
real situation, and, if not furious resistance of her parents, Galina
would be deprived of much needed support in school. The very precedence
of such an "evaluation" must be rejected based on the following:
1. Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Fourth Edition
(PPVT-4) is a measure of expressive vocabulary and word retrieval
for Standard American English. It is a quick and easy test to administer:
only 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the child's age. Some
researchers consider this test heavily culturally loaded and not
suitable for children from "non-mainstream culture".
2. According to The
Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing developed jointly
by APA, AERA, and NCME, it is unacceptable to perform just one test
for making diagnosis or educational decision. A comprehensive testing
for determination eligibility for services in school is required by
a major educational law in our country - IDEA-2004. It is against the
existing professional norms and procedures in education to use just
one test that measures only vocabulary and word retrieval and, based
on that, decide if the child has speech/language impairment.
3. Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Fourth Edition (PPVT-4)
is not designed to be translated and used with non-English speaking
population. Nowhere in the Manual can one find permission or recommendation
to use this test with a translator as a standardized instrument. The
test has certain psychometric properties normed exclusively on the English-speaking
population ages 2 to 90+. To state that Galina obtained a score of 95
according to the existing norms is to violate all possible psychometric
rules and procedures: in short, such statement is totally invalid, senseless,
4. Testing with a translator is a controversial issue. First
of all, a translator must be a "certified translator", not
just a person with knowledge of the language. Translating for educational
purposes is a specific professional activity. Was Galina's translator
certified and specifically trained to assist in speech and language
assessment? In my professional opinion, testing speech and language
proficiency through a translator is indefensible and can be challenged
based on the following:
- What was the role of rapport and relational
dynamics between Galina and the translator?
- What was the level of the translator's
knowledge of the English and Russian language?
- What was the degree of translator's involvement into
the process (his/her desire to "help" the child by prompting
or clueing Galina to the right answer)?
In conclusion, it is my professional opinion
that the above testing is invalid and unacceptable. In order to avoid
any confusion and misunderstanding in the future, this report should
be removed from Galina's file.
B. Gindis Ph.D