No AccessAmerican Journal of Speech-Language PathologyResearch Article27 Jan 2021

Language Differentiation Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication: An Investigation of Spanish–English Bilingual Children With and Without Language Impairments


    Children with severe speech and language impairments growing up in dual language environments may communicate in more than one language using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This study investigated predictors of bilingual children's ability to differentiate between Spanish and English using an AAC iPad app during a cued language-switching task and examined whether switching between languages using AAC incurred a cognitive cost.


    Participants were 58 Spanish–English bilingual children ages 4;0–6;11 (years;months; 23 with language impairments). Children received standardized language and cognitive assessments and completed an experimental language-switching task in which they were asked to differentiate between languages using an AAC iPad app containing English and Spanish vocabulary layouts paired with voice output.


    Results of a binary logistic regression indicated that, when controlling for age, processing speed significantly predicted whether children were classified as high or low performers on the experimental task. Nonparametric tests indicated that switching between languages did not incur a cognitive cost as evidenced by similar response times on trials where participants were required to switch between languages compared to trials where they did not switch.


    This study contributes to the understanding of how young bilingual children with and without language impairments conceptualize and discriminate between languages represented in a visual–graphic modality paired with speech output.

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