Dyslexia and multilingual settings
Deirdre Martin
School of Education,
University of Birmingham
Dyslexia Guild Summer Conference 19.6.2014
• Linguistic landscapes
• Intersectionality
• Trees and rhizomes
Linguistic landscapes
• 19th century preoccupation with standardisation and
codification of languages;
• Bounded languages: distinct and bounded systems of
grammar, vocabulary, and speech sounds/pronunciation;
• National academic institutions to maintain standards of
grammar and lexis;
• Exported to colonies;
• Ideological processes: linking language to political
authority and legitimacy in national contexts
One nation-one language &
Linguistic minorities
• Post-2nd WW and de-colonialisation: the link between
language and nation-building was challenged;
• Revitalisation of minority languages, eg in Europe, Welsh,
Catalan, Basque, and in USA
• Linguistic minority: understood within an ideological context
of nation-building (Heller 1999)
• Language diversity is seen as a threat to national cohesion
• Confusion and reluctance to address multilingualism and EAL
policies and provision
Language diversity in
95% of the British popx are monolingual English speakers
1.4% speak Scottish Gaelic (Scotland)
6.6% speak Irish Gaelic (N.Ireland)
21% speak Welsh (official status)
5.5+% speak other languages, of which
2.7% speak South Asian languages
Bengali, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujerati, as well as Cantonese, Italian,
Polish, Greek, Turkish
• 45% of the total minority ethnic community lives in London
(BBC Homepages)
Super-diversity is…..
• Meshing and interweaving of diversities following new patterns of
migration and post-migration;
• ‘dynamic interplay of variables among an increased number of new,
small, and scattered, multiple origin, transnationally connected, socioeconomically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants who have
arrived over the last decade’ (Vertovec 2007:1024)
• Neighbourhoods and schools are local/translocal, and real/virtual with
an effect on language practices, language use, and literacies and literacy
• Although not necessarily in opposition but complementary
• Working in /with these phenomena stretches the limits of existing
frameworks for understanding multilingualism and language change
(Blommaert 2010:8)
• Intersectionality (eg Crenshaw 1989):
studying the small spaces (interstices) between forms of
oppression and discrimination
• ‘Racialization of ability’: the disproportionate representation of
racial and linguistic minorities in special education (Artiles 2014)
Particular interstices between language and literacy
needs/difficulties and EAL in multilingual contexts
• Change in knowledge and understanding calls for a critical redefinition of the problem and to broaden the frames of research
Researching multilingual literacy difficulties
• Dominant conceptual approach to researching communication
disabilities, eg SLCN, & literacy difficulties/dyslexia) focus on
individual cognitive and social traits;
multilingualism as bounded languages, and as EAL;
a cognitive processing approach to ‘what works’
• Alternative research contexts in the interstices:
pairs and small groups with dyslexia/literacy diffics,
translanguaging/trans-scripting incl EAL,
multilingualism, multiliteracies, digital literacies,
+ poverty, gender, age, social inclusion/exclusion
SEND Code of Practice (April 2014)
In the ‘near final’ Draft SEND Code of Practice (April 2014)
ONE reference to multilingual learners:
Chapter 6: Schools; para 6.21 (p84)
“Identifying and assessing SEN for children and young people whose first
language is not English requires particular care. Schools should look
carefully at all aspects of a child or young person’s performance in different
areas of learning and development or subjects to establish whether lack of
progress is due to limitations in their command of English or if it arises from
a SEN or disability. Difficulties related solely to limitations in English as an
additional languages are not SEN.”
Working with dyslexia and multilingualism
Assessing strengths, needs, difficulties
Usually multiple and complex
Identifying a cause?
‘labelling disabling’ a learner while learning EAL?
How do we distinguish additional language learning from additional literacy
cause - consequence :
troubling relationships between assessment, diagnosis, and learning
represented by two metaphors: tree and rhizome
Comparing metaphors of learning
Tree and Rhizome
Tree metaphor:
vertical structure,
with beginnings and
cause-consequences link
over time
Eg biological, cognitive:
as in:
Chomskian language devt;
Neurological causes of
literacy difficulties
Rhizome metaphor for learning
tubor eg lilies, potatoes
Horizontal growth,
underground connections
that don’t seem related
on the surface,
multiple non-hierarchical
entry and exit points;
growing ‘difference’ by
'ceaselessly establishing connections between semiotic chains’
Rhizomes: dyslexia and multilingualism?
• Horizontal growth, rather than vertical cause-consequence
• Learning is continuous but not usually visible
• What is visible on the surface may not appear to be connected but is
connected through the same tubor/rhizome
• Any point of a rhizome can be/must be connected to any other part
of a rhizome
• Growth and re-growth can start anywhere on the rhizome
• Depicting the growth of a rhizome as a map and not a tracing
o Each rhizome tubor is unique in its growth
Pause for thought…
• Any ideas about applying these metaphors
to learners with literacy difficulties?
Tree or rhizome?
literacy difficulties and behaviour difficulties
literacy difficulties and EAL
• Cause –consequence : Chicken and egg?
• Hierarchy of structures of difficulties?
• What is visible on the surface may not appear to be connected but is
connected through the same tubor/rhizome?
• Any point of a rhizome can be/must be connected to any other part of a
Implications for working in contexts of dyslexia
and multilingualism
Shift the gaze from vertical cause-consequence structural approach in
assessment and following a programme
Assessment alternative: Dynamic assessment
Towards continuous mapping of growth of complexity
Awareness of the Other (assessor, teacher, parent.…)
and their learning and growth about understanding dyslexia in
Dynamic Assessment of language/literacy
learning abilities
Appraising how we learn language in mediated interaction rather than
assessing language we already know, or don’t know
focus is on Process of language learning
“ DA is concerned with the modifiability of a child by examining changes
between baseline testing and re-testing and by carefully observing
learning behaviours exhibited during mediation (teaching) sessions.”
(Peña and Gillam 2000; 543-544)
Ecological approach
To explore social and cultural influences on development of language
• Sampling communication in a variety of differing contexts and
environments, including classroom, community and home
• Obtaining information concerning the communication expectations
of adults who are part of a child’s natural environment, and
• Considering the contexts in which a student’s learning occurs before
drawing conclusions about his/her literacy skills abilities
Socially systemic approaches
o Use Bronfenbrenner’s model of nested social systems: personal
micro (family), meso (school) and macro (LA, DfE)
• Identify implications of poverty and discrimination for CLD and
migrant families on learner’s development
• Examine effects on psycho-social and language development of
children in social contexts
Practitioners’ roles & collaboration
An important aspect of the ecological approach is the relationship
between assessment, planning and intervention. In many cases the
practitioners who assess are not the practitioners who implement
educational management of the child with implications for the
information obtained in the assessment process informing teaching and
support (Cloud 1994).
The main actions of the RIOT procedure are
Review, Interview, Observe, Test
Review all pertinent documents & background info;
Interview teachers, peers, friends, family members and others;
Observe student in multiple contexts with a variety of people engaging in
(all) student’s languages/literacies;
Test both school and home languages and literacy
Applicable for all students amend & extend for bilingual learners’ difficulties and needs
(Isaac 2002)
To conclude
Diversity and super-diversity is a very challenging context to work in and
stretches the limits of existing frameworks for understanding and working
with literacy learning/difficulties in multilingualism and language change
The particular spaces where difficulties in language/literacy/EAL grow in
multilingual contexts is only beginning to be researched in critical ways to
advance educational equity.
Think in rhizomes rather than trees
Artiles, A. (2014) Future Research on the Intersections of Ability, Race, and Language
Differences: Re-framing the Roles of History and Poverty: Inaugural lecture at University of
Birmingham, March 2014
Blommaert, J. (2010) The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. CUP
Cloud, N. 1994 Special education needs of second language students. In F.Genesee (Ed)
Educating Second Language Children, NY:CUP (pp243-277)
Deleuze, G. and Guattari,F. (1980) Rhizome Trans., in revised form, in A Thousand Plateaus.
Isaac, K. (2002) Speech Pathology in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, London:Whurr
Martin-Jones, M., Blackledge, A., Creese, A. (2012) The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism,
Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics, Routledge
Peña, E. & Gillam, R. (2000)Dynamic assessment of children referred for speech and language
evaluations, Dynamic Assessment: Prevailing Models and Applications 6, 543-575
Vertoveç, S. (2007) Super-diversity and its implications, Ethnic and Racial Studies 30,6,1024-54

Assessment of Speech and Language Difficulties