How do we reduce health disparities for bilingual kids with and without communication disorders? The Bilingual Phonology Lab at the University of Arizona aims to find out. Little is known about typical phonological acquisition in bilingual children, and even less is known about bilingual children with phonological disorders. We also lack evidence-based assessment and intervention strategies, especially in the realm of speech sound disorders.

The long-term goals of the Bilingual Phonology Lab are to (1) develop and expand upon current theoretical models of bilingual phonological acquisition, taking into consideration how the two languages of bilingual children interact; (2) determine how disorder presents itself in a child that manages two languages, and (3) develop evidence-based approaches to assessment and intervention to help bilingual children with phonological disorders become effective communicators in both of their languages.

Current Projects:

In July 2018 we were awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) R01 to continue the work of our R21 project developing an evidence-based assessment procedure for bilingual Spanish-English speaking preschoolers with suspected phonological disorders. This five-year research grant will help reduce misdiagnosis of phonological disorders in Latino children, reducing health and educational disparities in this population.

The Bilingual Phonology Lab was awarded an R21 award in 2015 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to examine misdiagnosis of speech sound disorders in Latino children.

Current studies in the Bilingual Phonology Lab examine bilingual phonological acquisition in the contexts of: (1) models of bilingual phonological acquisition, expanding upon the PRIMIR model (Curtin, et al., 2011); (2) evidence based assessment approaches taking into consideration between-language interaction (adapting current measures and criteria developed for monolingual English speakers to match typical skills in bilingual preschoolers), and (3) treatment techniques that take advantage of interaction between the two languages of bilingual children (examining language context during intervention and monitoring generalization). Our long-term goal is to develop an evidence-based assessment tool and intervention program for bilingual Spanish-English-speaking children that is accessible to monolingual and bilingual SLPs alike.


The University of Arizona now offers a graduate Bilingual Certificate Program in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology! See the "Links" section for more details.

Interested in taking part in the lab?

Contact Dr. Leah Fabiano-Smith at leahfabianosmith@email.arizona.edu

Special thanks to Courtney Vorholzer and Abby Wickliffe for creating the website