Identifying language disorder in bilingual children aged 2.5 years requires screening in both languages

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Aim: Bilingual children are at risk of being overlooked for early identification of language difficulties. We investigated the accuracy of four screening models for children aged 2.5. The first model screened the child using their mother tongue, the second screened in Swedish, and the third screened in both languages used by the child. The fourth model consisted of direct screening in Swedish and using parental information about the child's language development in their mother tongue. Methods: Overall, 111 bilingual children (51% girls), 29-33 months, were recruited from three child health centres in Gävle, Sweden, from November 2015 to June 2017. All children were consecutively assessed by a speech and language pathologist, blinded to the screening outcomes. Results: Developmental language disorder was confirmed in 32 children (29%). Only the third model, based on direct assessment using the two languages used by the child, attained adequate accuracy; 88% sensitivity, 82% specificity, 67% positive and 94% negative predictive values. Conclusion: Bilingual children should be screened directly in both their languages in order to achieve adequate accuracy. Such screening procedure is particularly important for children from families with low socio-economic status living in complex linguistic environments.


  • Laleh Nayeb
  • Dagmar Lagerberg
  • Anna Sarkadi
  • Eva Kristina Salameh
  • Mårten Eriksson
External organisations
  • Uppsala University
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • University of Gävle
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Pediatrics


  • bilingual, child health care, developmental language disorder, environmental factors, language screening
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020 Sep 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes