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International Adoption Info

Newsletter #148 for Internationally Adopting Parents
May 30, 2011
PAL Center Inc.


Children with FASD in Schools

Initial screening
of your internationally adopted child
in the Spanish Language
is now available both at
the Phoenix &
New York
BGCenter offices!

New Online Class
from B. Gindis Ph.D.

Cumulative Cognitive Deficit
in Internationally Adopted Children
Coming Soon

Internet Digest

    Colleen Mastony
    Where love is blind: Sightless parents adopt children who cannot see

    Eric Danek
    Study finds small language gaps in children adopted from abroad

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Case Study:
Testing Speech and Language with a Translator
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 eligibility requirements."

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, and misleading.

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


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