13 Questions To Ask When You’re Adopting A Child Internationally

Welcome to the second post in the three part series about speech and language development in children who were adopted internationally.

So in our last post, we looked at what the research has to say about their language development. If you haven’t read that post already, you can read it here.

In this post, we’re going to give you 13 questions that you need to ask while you’re in the process of bringing your child home. Children who are brought home at older ages will have spent a longer amount of time in institutional care which means they’re at higher risk for speech, language, and communication challenges. They also have more catching up to do when they arrive home. But it’s important to remember that the research shows that most children are very resilient and make rapid gains in their language development after coming home. For example, in one study, Sharon Glennen reports that 65% of children aged between 12 and 24 months did not require early intervention services.

Before you bring your child home, it’s a good idea to get an idea of what their current speech, language, and communication skills are like. This helps you to get to know them better which will improve how you interact together. And it will also be really useful to have this information when and if you are working with a speech and language therapist. Of course it might be difficult to get answers to all of the questions we list below but it is important to see what you can find out. You might need to work with an interpreter to get more information. And some of the questions you can answer from your own observations like about eye contact and interest in interacting with others.

We’re basing this post on the suggestions of Sharon Glennen who has conducted a lot of research in this area.

  1. Does your child make frequent eye contact with adults when they are interacting together? (It’s important to remember that eye contact is cultural. In some cultures, children are not expected to make direct eye contact with adults because that would be disrespectful.)
  2. Does your child respond to his or her name being called?
  3. How does she let people know that she’s hungry or thirsty or that something’s wrong? Is it by using sounds or words or phrases or sentences? Or by moving her body?
  4. How does she show she’s had enough of something? Is it by shaking her head or saying no or crying? By explaining?
  5. Does your child start interactions by calling someone’s name or smiling or pointing?
  6. Does your child enjoy interacting with others? Think about this in terms of interacting with familiar people, unfamiliar people, and other children.
  7. What kinds of things has she available to play with and what kinds of play does she engage in? Does she play with other children or mainly alone?
  8. What can you find out about her medical history including things like information about hearing loss?
  9. Can she follow simple instructions?
  10. Does she need things to be repeated or made simpler so she can follow them?
  11. Do her caregivers think her language skills are generally what they’d expect for a child of her age?
  12. Is she using single words or two words together or sentences? Depending on her age, can she tell a simple story about something that happened?
  13. What do the caregivers think of her pronunciation? Can they understand her easily? If not, are there certain sounds or words that they can give examples of?


The answers to these questions will give you a solid foundation for getting to know your child and how to engage them in interactions with you. In our next post, we’re going to share with you what has worked for other parents in the early stages after coming home and give you some simple but powerful tips for encouraging your child’s language development. If you like this post, please pass it onto your friends!

Let’s get talking!

MP & Bríd









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