Tears on the Heart: Understanding Immigrants Children Language Development Challenges

Tears on the Heart: Understanding Immigrants Children Language Development Challenges

The goal of this article is to enlight parents on child development differences between their children and natives.

We received the diagnosis that our child has a language delay on understanding and talking skills in english when he was just 13 months.

During the discussion with the evaluators, I was confident that our son had no problem and I explained to the people it’s too early to make any psychological conclusion on our child language development.

The other things I raised were that in my country, some children manifest the expected language skills at 2 years old or more. And nobody consider it as a problem. So it might be with our kid.

Finally I asked if the fact the child is exposed to 2 languages could explain their diagnosis.

I remembered I read a book (I don’t remember the title or the author) saying that first born babies present some characteristics: since they are alone for generally the first two years, they develop more autonomy, speak less and are also less sociable (Not autist).

To cope with first children reality challenges, parents have to encourage them to participate in a lot of social activities with kids of the same age if not they could sink into behavioral problems like : arrogance, narcism, etc…

According to some pediatricians and psychologist we met and read, children not born in USA could have some speech delay (up to 4 years old) not pathological but related to the fact that children are learning two language at the same time.

I was so happy when I saw the article that I forwarded it to my wife…and we started applying some tips to help grow our child language:

– we identified he understands English better than French and we started giving him instruction in English.

The reason was that learning tools like videos (Chu-Chu TV) were all in English and normally, the words learned while watching are the one he could easily repeat and master.

– we kept speaking naturally French my wife and I and notice he could pick some words and understand their meaning.

As our baby was growing, we notice a change in his behavior due to some factors:

-Active presence and interaction with our son
-Spending time with other kids.

I found the book “Back to Normal ” of Enrico Gnaulati and was happy to discover we had the same view on children development matters.

The only difference I have with his ideas is that his approach does not include such knowledge for immigrants children born outside America.

Based on my readings and my experience with my son, the reasons for such wrong diagnosis on immigrants children development could be :

Over Scientisize children’s behavior. This is due to the fact that every behavior could be misinterpret if we always try to put it in a theory. It could be it’s just a behavior that makes him unique and different.

-Ignorance of cultural child development differences. If professional are not trained to integrate cross-cultural parameters in their curriculum, they could be inneficiant dealing with some immigrants children issues. A lot of wrong diagnosis could be due to lack of cross-culture in the training. This is more difficult if the knowledge is only in books and not in practice.

-The need for funding. This area raised a lot of controversy and I prefer to have a different approach on it. Funding could be directed into real children needs like the training of more bilingual teachers, more cross-cultural training on professional curriculum in every organizations.

-The wrong experts? Technically, only experts like pediatricians or child psychologists with adequate cross-cultural background training are equip to make any diagnosis on immigrants children development. Without this, a lot of parents would suffer medicating and over petting a child supposed to grow normally.

-Not considering parents views is a mistake. Piaget and the first children development experts based their theories on their children observations. A lot could be learn through parents who spend more time with their kids .

-Not considering the child past history. It could be interesting to track the child development back from the country he was born. This may help understand differences on immigrants children language development.

Watch the following video to have a better view and understanding of the accuracy of the challenge.

Share your experience if you faced the same situation as a parent, teacher, trainer or friend.

Hervé Boris Ngaté

Heartbreaking testimony!!!

What could be done…

One thought on “Tears on the Heart: Understanding Immigrants Children Language Development Challenges

  1. I honestly believe that you should seek a second opinion or just wait and see what happens to the child. By the same age as your child, my daughter was so talkative I would sometimes play a game with her…whoever wins is the one who was quiet the longest. Who do you think always lost? At 12 months, my son on the contrary never spoke. He spent more time breaking stuffs and engaging in different activities in the house than talking. He was a very playful and skinny boy who also ate almost everything. Just like many parents, I was concerned. I saw one pediatrician who told me my son had a developmental and a speech delay. I was shocked. I had appointments with therapists and I would have started a long therapy if my insurance had not told me that they were not convinced my child had any delay therefore they would not cover the therapies that were above $100 per session.

    My own parents reminded me that each child is different and that my son is just like many boys, they do not speak as early as girls. I spoke to his teachers and even the director of his daycare who told me that I was worrying too much and that my child had not shown any signs of developmental and speech delays. We were leaving in Uganda then and there was a parent (speech therapist) who volunteered to observe my child and told me the boy was fine. I was relieved but still not completely sure.

    When he started the daycare, my son enjoyed story telling, playing in the school’s farm, spending time outdoors doing sports but could not talk. He was diagnosed with a delay in the US then we went back to Uganda, then he started day care. After just three months in the day care, my son started babbling. I could see his improvements. He started calling my name which he never did because he referred to me and his dad as “papa”(french for dad).

    I believe that what the doctor failed to take into account was that my child spent most time with adults. He seldom met other kids and his sister is almost seven years older than him. He was never in an environment with other children and could not interact with kids of his age. At home, the primarily language has always been french.

    He is now a very talkative and active boy who enjoys running everywhere but would talk even to strangers. As you mentioned in your article, it is important when making a diagnosis to look at the family’s cultural background. language plays a big part in a child’s overall growth. if the primary language is french (for example) and the child’s language ability is in English, the result will certainly be a faulty judgment.

    My son speaks French and English, although more fluent in English but he will not hesitate to respond in either language when talking.


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