How Many Language Assessments are Appropriate for Indigenous Populations? The Answer May Shock You.

How many standardized language assessments are appropriate for Indigenous populations? Keep reading to learn more…
Have you ever wondered about the appropriateness of standardized measures for Indigenous populations? These assessments are typically normed on individuals who speak the majority language and grow up near metropolitan cities. They reflect the majority of the population in this regard. However, when it comes to assessing diverse populations, the applicability of these assessment measures diminishes. A 2019 study by Pearce & Flanagan reveals that appropriately normed, standardized tests are practically non-existent for Indigenous children speaking non-standard languages or dialects in English-colonized nations. So, the answer to our question is: 0. There are 0 standardized language assessments that have been normed on Indigenous populations. This group of individuals make up 5% of the Canadian population, with a reported 10% of Indigenous children experiencing a developmental language delay (Statistics Canada, 2013).  
Where is the support?
With such a high incidence of language delays in Indigenous populations in Canada, why is there a lack of standardized assessments for this group? The implications of this assessment gap have potential to have long term adverse effects on the ever-growing Indigenous population in Canada.
In addition to a lack of standardized language assessment, there is a huge barrier to service provision for this population. Generally speaking, there appears to be a lack of awareness of the need to support this population’s language development. As there are statistics from Statistics Canada on the Indigenous population and prevalence of language disorders in this group, the need for services has been identified. As this information has been reported in recent publications, this information can be understood to be reflective of the current population in Canada. So why, then, is there a lack of drive for change?
Access to Services
The Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) coordinates healthcare service provision in northern communities surrounding Sioux Lookout (Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, 2023). The contact healthcare professionals from all around Ontario and advocate for them to visit the northern communities to conduct assessments, issue referrals to other professionals, and provide suggestions for supporting development at home. SLFNHA connects healthcare professionals from the far boundaries of Ontario to ensure that the needs of the people living in these remote communities do not get swept under the rug. Based on my personal experience, SLFNHA has done a fantastic job of ensuring that all services are dictated by the individuals within the communities. This means that the required services are identified by leaders within communities, communicated to SLFNHA, and plans coordinated by SLFNHA for the transportation and provision of services. This is just one example of an organization that is currently working to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous healthcare access.

What Can You Do?
 Any emerging clinician, student, or citizen has the ability to advocate for more support for this population. Amplifying the voices of underserved populations can help spread awareness of issues and enact social change. You can learn more about organizations/companies such as SLFNHA, who work to connect healthcare professionals with northern communities. After doing some research, you can forward this information to your local healthcare providers to spread the word about the need for support in remote communities and ways that they can be of service.
You can also learn about the role of a speech-language pathologist (SLP! Through understanding an SLP’s scope of practice, you can be better equipped to advocate for their services. SLPs can provide a wide variety of support for speech, language, and swallowing challenges. Learn more about the services that the S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks team members provide to their clients on their website.