Let’s Learn a Little More about Russian-Influenced English



Russian does not contain the phonemes /w, ŋ, dʒ, θ, or ð/. In particular, phonemes such as /w/ and /m/ are difficult for Russian-ELLs to differentiate. Therefore, substitutions, distortions, or omissions of these sounds should not be misdiagnosed as a phonological or articulation disorder, as there isn’t an overlap of these sounds in the phonemic inventories of Russian and English. In addition, final consonants in Russian are always devoiced. Knowing this, devoicing at the end of words should not be considered a disordered phonological process in Russian ELLs.

The vocalic system of Russian is smaller and less complex than the English vocalic system. The vowels that do not exist in Russian (dipthongs) may be distorted in Russian-English bilinguals, and should not be misidentified as a disorder of articulation, but rather as a difference present in typical English-Russian speakers.

However, in both English and Russian, all obstruents have voiced and voiceless counterparts. Therefore, voicing and devoicing processes (i.e. /læv/ for /læf/, /sɪp/ for /zɪp/) in Russian ELLs is likely not an issue of second-language acquisition, but a possible indication of a phonological processing disorder. In addition, Russian is a language that presents with many clusters, and can contain up to 4 consonants clustered in one word. Therefore, cluster reduction of English words after developmental norms are reached can be interpreted as an abnormal phonological process in Russian-English bilinguals (Belyakov, 2008).



Russian adjectives have gender, case, and number agreement with the nouns they describe. Therefore, the Russian structure is more complex and concrete, in comparison to the adjective-noun elaboration structure in English. Errors of noun-elaboration and adjective-elaboration may be present in Russian-English bilinguals, due to this distinct difference between the two languages (i.e. “They have two house” would not be considered a disordered syntactic error) (Grosman, 2014).

Russian does not contain any indefinite or definite articles, so accurate use of “the”, “an”, etc. may be challenging even for typical Russian-influenced English-speakers. Conceptualization of articles will need to be explicitly taught to Russian ELLs, due to the lack of articles in Russian.

Russian marks gender by inflection, while English has different lexical entries for gender. For example, “he”, “she”, and “it” are distinct in English, but are more ambiguous in Russian (in Russian, all three of those words vary by one letter, demonstrating connection in meaning across the Russian lexicon) (Grosman, 2014). Errors of “he”, “she”, and “it” may be present in Russian-influenced English and should not be misunderstood as disordered, due to the lack of cross-linguistic carry over in both languages, as each marks gender differently.



In general, word order in Russian follows a subject-verb-object sequence. However, flexibility in this general structure exists (Chakraborty et al, A Clinician’s Guide to Russia – see link). For example, “impersonal, indefinite-impersonal, reflexive, and passive constructions” are all grammatically-acceptable syntactic structures in Russian. The final position of nouns and adjectives “always change depending on their function and position in the sentence” (Sumerset, 2016). Therefore, when working with Russian-ELLs, explicit instruction of the obligatory subject-verb-object construction in English will be necessary in order for adherence to this word order.


Written by: Taylor Viggers, MS, CF-SLP




Sumerset, L. (2016). English and Russian: Similarities And Differences. Retrieved April

19, 2016, from http://www.languagesoftware.net/blog/english-and-russian-similarities-and-differences/


Grosman, J. D. (2014). Language Development of Bilingual Russian/ English Speaking Children

Living in the United States: A Review of the Literature. OpenSIUC. Retrieved April 19,

2016, from h p://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/uhp_theses.


Belyakov, Irene (2008). “From Russia with /lav/: Transitioning into a New Culture and

Phonology.” ASHA. 18 Apr. 2016. Lecture.




The Importance of Cultural Competence in Speech-Language Pathology

In order to be culturally competent, practicing speech language pathologists, it is important to consider the differences that exist among and between culturally and linguistically diverse groups. Taking cultural differences in to consideration when servicing diverse groups allows for professionals to create stronger relationships between clients and their family members. Providers establish a sensitive, safe place that factors in the values of a culture that allows for better goal creation and functionality is increased.

There are many culturally and linguistically diverse groups that comprise the population of the United States. However, there is a pre-established “mainstream” US culture that does not account for the differences of the culturally and linguistically diverse groups that must not be assumed to function for all clients. For example, belief systems that create a groundwork of a culture’s world views differ drastically between cultures. While the mainstream US culture believes in the power of science and cognitive processes, other groups, such as Native American cultures, value long-practiced traditions. For example, Native American cultures use traditional songs and stories as methods of teaching (Robinson-Zañartu, 375). In addition, while sequence of events and cause-and-effect are embedded within the stories shared, greater emphasis is placed on a “bigger idea” rather than specific details. This should be taken in to consideration when speech-language pathologists evaluate narrative abilities, as this is a difference rather than a disorder in terms of story-telling style and interpretation. Another cultural difference between mainstream US culture and Native American peoples is the appropriateness of linguistic timing. For example, in mainstream US culture, question-and-answer in order to interview or assess is completely appropriate. However, in Native American culture, quick timing of questions in succession may be means for retreat or closing off. This style of questioning to gain information should not be used for Native American clients or their families (Robinson-Zañartu, 375). Speech language pathologists should also not misinterpret the cultural practices of respect for elders that differ between Native American culture and mainstream US culture. In particular, in school settings, a Native American student may demonstrate respect for authority and elders by not looking their teachers in the eye or not engaging in reciprocal conversations by refraining from asking direct questions. An uneducated clinician may erroneously assume the child is shy, withdrawn, or not self-confident (Robinson-Zañartu, 377). Instead, a speech language pathologist should acknowledge that a lack of eye contact is not socially awkward in a Native American culture, but instead is a sign of respect and should not be forced.

An incredibly important factor to consider as a speech language pathologist is a culture’s view of disability. For example, families of Vietnamese culture may feel that a family member with a disability may not be able to improve or overcome their disability, and the focus is rather placed on the family finding harmony with the disability. This should be taken in to consideration when choosing treatments and goals for the client with regards to how it affects their family’s harmony (Davis-McFarland, 205). Cultural view of the disability may affect how willing a family may be in seeking treatment or interventions.  Similarly, there may be more factors that influence a family’s treatment and intervention decisions, based on their cultural values that they associate with health. For example, in mainstream US culture, the gender or ethnicity of the service provider is not taken in to as much consideration as it may be for other cultures, such as Arab cultures. In addition, in some cultures, the male-counterpart may be the sole decision maker. In these circumstances, the speech language pathologist should not force a particular provider or treatment plan if it is not suitable for a family based on their personal, cultural opinions (Davis-McFarland, 206). It is best to give the family the freedom to seek other options that are more harmonious for the lifestyle and culture.

Written By: Taylor Viggers, MS, CF-SLP


Robinson-Zañartu, C., Butler-Byrd, N., Cook-Morales, V. et al. Contemp School Psychol (2011) 15: 103. doi:10.1007/BF03340967

Davis-Mcfarland, Elise. “Family and Cultural Issues in a School Swallowing and Feeding Program.” Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools 39.2 (2008): 199. Web.

An Interview: Thought-Provoking Questions for Professionals that Work with Children that are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing

  1. What is your role in working with children with hearing loss, or more specifically, what are your duties that involve children with hearing loss?
    “I work with children that are deaf/profoundly hard of hearing on learning sign language. I also hold support groups for families with deaf children, and private lessons for teaching whole families how to sign ASL. I often advocate for children that are deaf in IEP meetings.”
  2. When you work with children who have hearing loss, what are the two or three consequences or effects of the hearing loss that you think have the biggest impact on the child’s life?
    “A lot of the time, children that are born deaf are born to parents that are hearing. There can be a disconnect between the parents and the children when this happens, because they both naturally communicate in different ways. This can lead the parents to have some difficult decisions when it comes to determining how the child should be taught to communicate or how the child’s communication is supported. Similarly, children with hearing loss have different social experiences than their hearing counterparts, due to the stigma of hearing aids, inability to fully speak orally, etc.”
  3. Do you think that children with hearing loss are being adequately served in the area where you work?
    “I believe that the intent is there, but some people could better serve children that are deaf and their families by being better educated about Deaf culture. Because many of us that work with deaf children are hearing, our culture can be (accidentally or forcefully) imposed on to the Deaf culture. When this happens, children with hearing loss and their families do not get adequately served.”
  4. What kinds of things would you like to see happen differently for children with hearing loss where you work?
    “I have seen some businesses/co-workers impose their own beliefs on how a hard of hearing/deaf child “should” communicate, versus listening to parental concerns and helping to make a decision best for the individual and his/her family. I would like to see people have support in making this critical decisions, versus imposing one preferred method universally.”
  5. If you are familiar with the speech and language services that children with hearing loss receive in your school or community, do you think that these services are meeting the needs of the students? Why do you think this?
    As an advocate, I am frequently helping families offer for more therapy time with their school’s speech pathologist to get more individual time so that the child can be fully supported in learning the best communication strategies. When speech pathologists work with children that are hard of hearing for the right amount of time to make change, they do a great job.
  6. If you are aware of the hearing related services that children with hearing loss are receiving in the schools or community where you are, do you think that these services are meeting the needs of the students? Why do you think this?
    The audiologists in the districts that I am familiar with do a nice job of helping families with low incomes get affordable hearing aids, and then they follow up on fitting the hearing aids properly and teaching families and children how to properly care for the hearing aids.
  7. Do you have anything that you would like to see done differently by people who work with kids with hearing loss? (e.g. programs, funding, devices, etc..)
    Funding can be hard to come by, depending on the situation.



Another critical issue for children that are hard-of-hearing or deaf is that they can be misunderstood by their teachers and peers, based on some of the potential social and academic effects that their hearing loss can have. For example, teachers may misinterpret a child that is hard-of-hearing for a child that behaves badly by choice or needs repetition of directions based on not paying attention. There needs to be special attention paid to the specific issues that children with hearing loss can present with, as well as education for teachers to help remediate some of these issues to make children with hearing loss more academically successful. Teachers and classroom supporters can help to enhance the social experiences had by children that are hard of hearing in the classroom by creating group activities that foster teamwork and camaraderie among hearing children and hard-of-hearing children.

Written By: Taylor Viggers, MS, CF-SLP

A quick guide to hippotherapy:

Equine therapy/hippotherapy is a therapy that can be implemented for children with autism, that claims to have many benefits. Hippotherapy is a therapy in which certified individuals pair children with autism with a horse to try to foster communication skills, especially with children that present with nonverbal autism. Proponents of hippotherapy claim that benefits for the autism population can include relaxation of tight muscles, increased muscle strength, improved fine motor coordination, sharpened hand/eye coordination, improved posture/flexibility, improved communication, better self-control, improvements in self-confidence, enhanced concentration, and improved socialization (Aspen, 2011). In terms of improved socialization, hippotherapy impacts social connections through allowing the child with autism to foster a personal relationship with a horse (Ultimate Autism Guide). In a study conducted by Kem et al, 20 individuals with autism underwent hippotherapy for a 6 month time-span. Improvements in communication were measured via baseline and post-treatment performance on the CARS. Similarly, parent report via the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale showed drastic improvement after only 3 months of exposure to the treatment, and improved again at the end of the 6 month time-span. However, there is limited information about the age of participants, the “severity” of the autism diagnosis, and how the selected individuals qualified to participate in the study (eligibility requirements). In another study conducted by Gabriels et. al, 42 participants with autism were prescribed a 10-week dosage of “therapeutic horseback riding”, participants were found to have better self-regulation skills than at the pre-trial period. On top of benefits within speech-language therapy, occupational therapists and physical therapists also report benefits within motor skills and balance gained via hippotherapy (Johnston).

Unfortunately, many insurance companies have a different opinion about hippotherapy and refuse to cover the cost. Similar to insurance companies, some are confused about the purpose of hippotherapy and feel that “learning to ride a horse” is not synonymous with therapy (Johnston). However, proponents of hippotherapy, as previously mentioned, maintain that hippotherapy does more than just teach an individual how to ride a horse.

While research on hippotherapy is limited, there are certainly a number of organizations and associations that support hippotherapy. In addition, there are countless personal testimonies that report positive experiences and breakthroughs through implementation of hippotherapy (NC Therapeutic Riding Center), and may therefore be a reason why so many organizations support this type of therapy. Just a quick google search of “hippotherapy autism” will result in a list of the following organizations demonstrating positive associations with hippotherapy: American Hippotherapy Association, Children’s TherAplay Foundation,  Autism Speaks, Aspen Education, Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, etc.

Written by: Taylor Viggers, MS, CF-SLP


Aspen. (2011). Aspen education group. Retrieved from http://aspeneducation.crchealth.com      /articles/article-equine-aspergers-autism/


Gabriels, Robin L., Agnew, John A., Holt, Katherine D., Shoffner, Amy. (August, 2011). Pilot study           measuring the effects of therapeutic horseback riding on school-age children and adolescents with        autism spectrum disorder. Elsevier. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 578-588. Retrieved     September 17, 2015, from http://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Agnew/publication/            235420679_pilot_study_measuring_the_effects_of_therapeutic_horseback_riding_on_school-             age_children_and_adolescents_with_autism_spectrum_disorder/links/    546f67f80cf2d67fc0311247.pdf


Johnston, L. (March 20, 2013). Some health insurance companies hesitate to cover treatment using      horses. Retrieved September 18, 2015, from http://www.insweb.com/news-features/horse-         therapy.html


Kem, J., Fletcher, C., Garver, C., Mehta, J., & Grannemann, B. (2011). Prospective trial of equine-assisted          activities in autism spectrum disorder. Health Med, 17(3). Retrieved September 17, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22164808


NC Therapeutic Riding Center. Hippotherapy. Retrieved September 18, 2015, from http://           http://www.nctrcriders.org/hippotherapy.html


The Benefits of Hippotherapy for the Autistic Population – Special. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2015,          from http://www.special-learning.com/article/benefits_hippotherapy


Ultimate Autism Guide. Autism Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Research:            Prospective     Trial of Equine-Assisted Activities in Autism Spectrum Disorder. (2012,             January 10). Retrieved            September 18, 2015, from http://ultimateautismguide.com/2012/01/autism-research-prospective- trial-of-equine-assisted-activities-in-autism-spectrum-disorder/