About the Institute

The Bilingual Extension Institute is for practicing bilingual SLPs who received their master's from other universities. Students who are accepted into the master’s program in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Teachers College do not need to register for the Institute, as they acquire their bilingual extension through the bilingual/multicultural program focus.

The over-referral of bilingual and culturally diverse children to special education and related services is a pressing challenge in public school systems. Not only are unnecessary or inappropriate services a drain on resources, but they are harmful to the child, taking him or her away from the classroom and inevitably stigmatizing the child. In addition, an incorrect diagnosis may mean that the child does not receive the services he or she does need.

We speech-language pathologists evaluate bilingual and culturally diverse children who are having academic difficulties, We are "on the front lines" in making the crucial differential diagnosis between a disorder and something else. This "something else" could have a cultural basis, such as a mismatch between demands of school and home or linguistic factors, for example the normal process of second language acquisition. Add in cultural and linguistic biases in traditional assessment tools and methods and we can readily see the need for the clinician to a have a sophisticated and specialized knowledge base. Without this knowledge base, bilingual clinicians cannot make informed decisions about the services needed by these children.

The Bilingual Extension Institute at Teachers College Columbia University provides clinicians with the knowledge and skills to make these differential diagnoses and provide appropriate services. The bilingual extension certificate requirement of the State Education Department recognizes the need for special training. Any clinician who works with bilingual children and adolescents (ages 3-21) for IEP based-services must obtain this add-on to their Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities certificate. The Bilingual Extension Institute at Teachers College Columbia University fulfills all requirements of the bilingual extension, except for the NYSED BEA, the language proficiency test.

The Bilingual Speech Language Pathology Extension Institute Teachers College, Columbia University

The task of the bilingual evaluator and treatment planner can seem overwhelming. The child’s speech community, sociolinguistic influences on the quality of the language samples elicited, and the quality of classroom instruction, are just a few of the factors that must be considered. Yet, of course, it can be done. Our program gives clinicians the knowledge and skills to determine just what is really going on with a bilingual and culturally diverse child as well as to deliver appropriate services.

The Institute bridges the gap between research-based theoretical knowledge and everyday practice. This emphasis on training for practical application is reflected in everything from the use of practicing clinicians on the faculty to the project-based course content.

One illustration of our integration of theory and practice is the requirement of three bilingual speech-language evaluations. The students do two evaluations of typically developing bilingual children/adolescents to gain baseline knowledge-’"informed clinical opinion--of such children. As they make their conclusions about development, the students must cite the relevant research. The third evaluation is of a language-impaired child/adolescent. By this point, the students can analyze the psychometric parameters and the cultural and linguistic biases in testing tools. They also understand the impact of current and historical language and dialect use in the home and school on the child’s language development. Another layer of analysis is the impact of sociolinguistics and socioeconomics on the quality and quantity of language elicited and the likelihood of academic success.

The resource manual project provides another way to connect the research with the student’s clinical work. Students collect information about the non-English language they, themselves, speak. This includes information about phonological development, dialectal variants within the language, information on language development for both sequential and simultaneous bilinguals, sociolinguistic issues, analyses of the particular biases in commonly-used tests, and literacy development in bilingual/bidialectal children. The material becomes a resource to them in their clinical settings.

Our clinician-students, themselves bilingual and culturally diverse, are all too aware of the negative impact on their own cultural communities of biases in assessment and treatment. Their enthusiasm and appreciation as they learn more effective assessment and treatment methods is particularly gratifying. Indeed, a number of clinicians who already had their bilingual extension certificate from another university have re-done their bilingual extension through the Institute because they felt unprepared to provide appropriate bilingual speech-language services.

Students often develop networks with colleagues that continue for many years. They develop an expertise that they bring back to their practices and school setting. Towards the end of the Institute, students do in-service trainings at their schools on topics related to the provision of quality services to bilingual students. One of the goals is for the Institute-trained speech language clinicians to be seen as one of the "language experts" in their schools. Several are speech supervisors for their preschools in part because they bring this much-needed expertise. A number have presented their clinically-based research work from the Institute at NYSSLHA and ASHA. Several were inspired to enter doctoral programs and in 2007 the first Institute-inspired Ph.D. was granted and other former students are currently in doctoral programs.

Since 1996 over 630 bilingual clinicians have earned their bilingual extension to their TSSLD through the Institute. The students range from speakers of various dialects of Spanish, to speakers of various Asian Indian and Chinese languages, Haitian Creole, Russian, Korean, Arabic, Greek, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Yiddish, and Hebrew. While most Institute students plan to work in New York State, a number of bilingual clinicians have traveled long distances from across the country to attend. The Institute is focused on providing bilingual speech language clinicians with the specific knowledge they need to provide quality services to bilingual children and adolescents. To maintain this focus, professionals from other disciplines seeking their bilingual extension are not eligible for acceptance into the Bilingual Extension Institute.

Tuition costs are kept low. For 2022, the total tuition is $6,650 (plus non-refundable deposit of $300.00, that is applied towards the tuition, and $60 for course fees). 

The Institute meets six weekends over eight months. The Institute was first at Marymount Manhattan College. In 2001, it moved to Teachers College where it is offered jointly the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences. The faculty consists of speech-language pathologists and linguists with considerable expertise in providing services to culturally and linguistically diverse children and adolescents.

The Bilingual Extension Institute begins in May and meets one weekend a month in May, June, September, October, November, and December. Applications are available at the end of January. The Institute fills quickly so send in your applications early.

To apply, follow the these instructions. For more information, contact bilingualslp@tc.columbia.edu.


Catherine J. Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., CCC-SLP
ASHA FELLOW and Board Recognized Specialist in Child Language
Professor of Practice, Director of the Bilingual Extension Institute, and Coordinator of
the Bilingual/Bicultural Program Focus in the MS Program in CSD, and the Bolivia and Ghana Projects
Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders
Teachers College, Columbia University
525 West 120th Street, Box 180
New York, New York 10027

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