CAL Resource Guides Online
Several factors influence the identification of English language learners with special needs. Limited prior schooling, lack of proficiency in English, native language background, cultural expectations, and personal or family concerns can all influence a learnerÁs academic progress. It can be difficult to distinguish between a learning disability and learning problems caused by a variety of other factors. English language learners whose difficulties in school stem from these factors may be misidentified as having a learning disability. In other cases, English language learners who have a learning disability may not be properly identified on the assumption that their learning problems stem from linguistic and cultural differences. To further complicate matters, special needs may not have been identified in the learner's native language but may become evident as the student is learning English.
Traditional identification instruments designed for English speakers may not be valid with English language learners. Identification of English language learners with special needs should include consideration of the following factors:
Learning in any language is affected by learning disabilities, but second language learners with special needs present additional educational challenges. According to the British Columbia Ministry of Education, Skills, and Training (Fowler & Hooper, 1998), instructors of English language learners with special needs should consider the cultural, developmental, and first language background of the learner. They should also do the following:
The use of standardized testing to identify and assess the progress of English language learners with special needs is problematic. Normally designed for native English speakers, many assessment instruments do not reliably assess speakers of other languages because they ignore differences among linguistic and cultural groups (Schwarz & Burt, 1995). Assessment of English language learners with special needs should include the following:
Fowler, J., & Hooper, H.R. (1998). ESL Learners with Special Needs in British Columbia: Identification, Assessment and Programming. British Columbia: The British Columbia Ministry for Education, Skills, and Training.
Schwarz, R., & Burt, M. (1995). ESL Instruction for Learning Disabled Adults. ERIC Digest. Washington, DC: National Center for ESL Literacy Education. (EDRS No. ED 379 966)
ERIC/CLL is grateful to Bernadette Knoblauch of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education for her valuable assistance in compiling this Resource Guide Online.
The following publications, Web sites, and listservs offer additional information about English language learners with special needs. This Resource Guide concludes with an annotated bibliography of ERIC documents related to this topic.
Digests provide brief overviews of topics in education.
British Journal of Special Education
This well-established and respected journal covers the full range of learning difficulties of students in mainstream and special schools. The journal is concerned with a wide range of special educational needs and covers all levels of education, including pre-school, K–12, and post-secondary education.
This peer-reviewed journal publishes original research on the education and development of toddlers, infants, children, and youth with special needs, and articles on professional issues of concern to special educators.
Teaching Exceptional Children
TEC is published specifically for teachers and administrators of children with disabilities and children who are gifted. TEC features practical articles that present methods and materials for classroom use as well as current issues in special education.
Topics in Early Childhood Special Education
This journal deals with timely, important issues and trends in early childhood special education. TECSE translates theory and research into effective practice; presents articles by professionals in early childhood education, special education, and related fields; and provides a forum for ideas, knowledge, research findings, questions, and answers dealing with the special nature of preschool education.
Artiles, A., & Ortiz, A. (in press). English Language Learners with Special Needs: Identification, Placement, and Instruction. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Baca, L., & de Valenzuela, J. S. (1994). Reconstructing the Bilingual Special Education Interface. NCBE Program Information Guide Series No. 20. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. Available: http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/pubs/pigs/pig20.htm
Chapman, J.B., Vaillancourt, B., & Dobbs, C.S. (1980). Learning Disabilities and the Adult Student of English as a Second Language. Palatine, IL: William Rainey Harper College.
Genesee, F. H., Paradis, J., & Crago, M. B. (2004). Dual Language Development and Disorders. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Gersten, R., Baker, S., & Marks, S. (1998). Teaching English-Language Learners with Learning Difficulties: Guiding Principles and Examples from Research-Based Practice. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.
Root, C. (1994). A Guide to Learning Disabilities for the ESL Classroom Practitioner. TESL Electronic Journal, 1.
Smith, T., Polloway, E., Patton, J., & Dowdy, C. (3rd. Edition). (2001). Teaching Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Terrill, L., & Flores, M. (2001). NCLE Resource Collection: Learning Disabilities and Adult ESL.
The Council for Exceptional Children
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and the gifted.
A service of The Learning Project at WETA in WAshington, DC, LD Online is an interactive guide to learning disabilities for parents, teachers, and children.
Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
LDA's purpose is to advance the education and general welfare of children and adults of normal or potentially normal intelligence who manifest disabilities of a perceptual, conceptual, or coordinative nature.
The Migrant/OLE Project
The Migrant/Optimal Learning Environment (Migrant/OLE) Project disseminates a program of effective literacy instruction for migrant students, and culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students.
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)
NCLD provides national leadership in support of adults and children with learning disabilities by offering information, resources, and referral services.
NCELA Resources About Special Education
This resource page is comprised of articles and links regarding the education of linguistically and culturally diverse (LCD) students with special educational needs.
Learning Disabilities/Learning Challenges: Unlocking the Mysteries of Learning Problems with ESL Adult Students
This online PowerPoint presentation by Judith Rance-Roney, Ed.D. Lehigh University, is about ESL learners with learning disabilities.
Special Needs Education Discussion Group
The Special Needs Education (SNE) project offers five e-mail discussion groups:
ESL-SNE is a discussion group for teachers and learners of English as a second language.
SNETEACHTALK-L is for educators involved in special needs education.
SNEPARENTALK-L is for parents and care providers of children with special needs.
SNE-NEWTEACHER-L brings together novice and experienced educators to discuss topics related to novice teaching.
SNE-EATALK-L was created for educational assistants and other support personnel to discuss their role in educating students with special needs.
An assortment of e-mail discussion lists on many issues of interest to learners with special needs is offered by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
Information on obtaining the documents listed below can be found at the end of this section. These documents were identified by searching the ERIC database using the following combination of ERIC descriptors and keywords:
Special Needs Students or Disabilities/DE or Disorders/DE
English (Second Language) or Limited English Speaking
The Development of English Oral Communication in Learning Disabled Spanish Speaking Students in Puerto Rico.
Reyes-Bonilla, Maria A.; Carrasquillo, Angela L.
April 26, 1993
In a study that sought to identify the gains in English oral communication skills of Spanish speaking learning disabled students in the elementary schools, the Basic Inventory of Natural Language (BINL) and the Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery (WLPB) were administered to two groups of students aged 8 to 12 years: an experimental group of 20 students in a self-contained class and a control group of 20 mainstreamed students. Students in the experimental group received English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction using the natural approach (NAT) and the control group followed the audiolingual approach (AAT). The BINL was used as a measure of English oral production skills and the WLPB was used to measure English vocabulary comprehension skills and listening comprehension. Results reveal that elementary Spanish speaking learning- disabled students showed gains in English oral communication skills. The NAT and AAT showed instructional strengths for the acquisition of ESL in learning-disabled students. Students under the NAT treatment showed a significant difference in the Woodcock Analogies subtest by age group.
The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals: An Introduction for Professionals.
Availability: Multilingual Matters Ltd., UTP, 2250 Military Road, Tonawanda, NY 14150 (hardback: ISBN-0- 85359-466-0, $49.95; paperback: ISBN-1-85359-465-2, $15.95).
This book is a comprehensive introduction for all professionals working with bilingual children. For speech therapists, physicians, psychologists, counselors, teachers, special needs personnel, and many others, this book addresses the most important issues at a practical level. It is written in simple, nontechnical terms accessible to the layman and provides a brief but comprehensive introduction. Areas addressed include the following: the nature of bilingual children; the everyday language use of bilinguals; the advantages of the bilingual child; the personality and social development of bilinguals; identity issues and solutions; children as interpreters; code-switching; bilinguals and their families; childhood trilingualism; home and school relationships; language assessment and speech therapy in the bilingual context; migrants and refugee bilinguals; the assessment of bilingual children; language delays and disorders; the development of biliteracy; prejudice reduction in school; and bilingual classrooms. The book is divided into 13 chapters and has an index, glossary, and bibliography. Each chapter concludes with suggestions for further reading. Scholarly references appear throughout the text.
Accuracy of Teacher Assessments of Second-Language Students at Risk for Reading Disability.
Limbos, Marjolaine M.; Geva, Esther
Journal of Learning Disabilities, v34 n2 p136-51 Mar-Apr 2001
This study examined the accuracy of teacher (N=51) assessments in screening for reading disabilities among Grade 1 students of English as a second language (N=249) and as a first language (N=120). Results indicated that teacher rating scales and nominations had low sensitivity in identifying reading disability in either group as determined by a standardized reading score.
Bilingual Multicultural Special Education: An Integrated Personnel Preparation Program.
Gallegos, Anne; McCarty, Laurie L.
Teacher Education and Special Education, v23 n4 p264-70 Fall 2000
This article presents guidelines for the development and implementation of a graduate program in bilingual multicultural special education using the program at New Mexico State University as a model. It identifies the competencies of bilingual multicultural special educators, identifies steps in creating a new program, offers a philosophical framework, and reports on outcomes of the New Mexico program.
Assessment of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students for Special Education Eligibility.
In addressing the problem of assessing culturally and linguistically diverse students for special education eligibility, this brief paper organizes suggested strategies according to four principles: (1) convening a full, multidisciplinary assessment team (to include parents, educators, assessors, and a person familiar with the student's culture and language); (2) using pre-referral strategies and interventions to determine whether difficulties stem from language or cultural differences, a lack of educational opportunity, or from a disability); (3) determining the language to be used in testing (assessment of language dominance and proficiency); and (4) conducting a tailored, appropriate assessment of the child and environment that combines nonbiased, appropriate instruments with other sources of information (observations, interviews) from a variety of environments to produce a multidimensional assessment.
Learning Disabilities and Spanish-Speaking Adult Populations: The Beginning of a Process.
Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
This report is designed for use by policymakers and practitioners involved in issues of adult education, welfare reform, and employment training programs. The driving concerns of this report are issues associated with Spanish-speaking adults who are at risk for having learning disabilities. The focus on adults is critical, because such issues as diagnostic requirements and services available are very different for adults with disabilities than for children with disabilities. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide a means to enable persons with disabilities to successfully achieve self-sufficiency through education and work. To develop the needed tools for this effort, a 6-phase project was designed, and this report focuses on the first two phases: reaching a consensus among experts on diagnostic processes for Spanish-speaking adults to determine the presence of learning disabilities (LD); and determining from the existing screen instruments in Spanish which ones should be field-tested to for validity for predicting LD in Spanish-speaking adults. Several specific tests and types of tests are discussed at length. The report is divided into seven sections providing acknowledgements, an executive summary, an introduction, a conference overview, the notes of concern of some participants, findings on the diagnostic process, and screening tool recommendations for field tests. Seven appendices provide details on learning disability definitions, current diagnostic procedures, GED testing requirements, lists of conference participants and project staff.
Do My ESOL Students Have Learning Disabilities? A Practical Manual for ESOL Instructors Concerned about Learning Disabilities and the ESOL Learner.
Shewcraft, Dianne F.; Witkop, Eileen L.
This booklet, conceived, researched, and produced by teachers of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) practitioners, is designed to help ESOL teachers identify and assess students who may have learning disabilities. Two groups of ESOL learners are the subject of this study: those ESOL adult learners who already have some formal education and are attempting further formal education and knowledge in English, who may also have a learning disability; and the ESOL adult learner seeking the same but has no or very little previous formal education. The book is divided into several sections covering the following topics: the definition of a learning disability, suspecting a learning disability in ESOL learners, approaching the learner, and classroom strategies. Extensive lists of resources are provided, as well as four appendices including a sample hands-on screening kit, a list of common acronyms pertinent to learning disabilities, a copy of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and a practitioner questionnaire.
Profiles of Asian American Students with LD at Initial Referral, Assessment, and Placement in
Poon-McBrayer, Kim Fong; Garcia, Shernaz B.
Journal of Learning Disabilities, v33 n1 p61-71 Jan-Feb 2000
This study examined the characteristics of 26 Asian American elementary students with learning disabilities including demographic characteristics, factors associated with referral, assessment practices, student profiles, and instructional recommendations for special education. Results suggest similarities with Mexican American students with LD and other language minority students.
Assessing LEP Migrant Students for Special Education Services.
Lozano-Rodriguez, Jose R.; Castellano, Jaime A.
Many migrant students are not identified for needed special education services in a timely manner. This digest describes the obligations of schools to provide such services, and discusses approaches for student referral, assessment, and placement and working with migrant families. Federal mandates concerning special education are summarized, and the unmet needs of migrant children are briefly discussed. The referral process takes time and includes requirements that vary among agencies, districts, and states. General information is provided on the referral process for the school-aged child. Because most migrant students are from Hispanic backgrounds, multidisciplinary assessment teams should include bilingual educators and be sensitive to children's cultural backgrounds. Evaluators must consider as many aspects of the student's life circumstances as possible in order to accurately interpret results of educational testing. Schools should give testing priority to migrant students, assess students fairly in their native language or provide a skilled interpreter, and interpret standardized tests with caution. Cultural and experiential differences between school personnel and parents may create difficulties. Suggestions for working with parents are listed. Because migrant students may move frequently, schools must pursue interventions quickly and provide copies of documents to be carried to the student's next school.
Effective Instruction for Language Minority Children with Mild Disabilities.
Ruiz, Nadine T.
This digest describes a model curriculum for children from language minority groups, called the "Optimal Learning Environment Curriculum--A Resource for Teachers of Spanish Speaking Children in Learning Handicapped Programs." This bilingual special education class model is governed by the following principles: (1) take into account the student's sociocultural background and its effect on oral language, reading and writing, and second language learning; (2) take into account the student's learning handicaps and how they may affect oral language, reading, writing, and second language learning; (3) follow developmental processes in literacy acquisition; (4) locate curriculum in a meaningful context where the communicative purpose is clear and authentic; (5) connect curriculum with the students' personal experiences; (6) incorporate children's literature into reading, writing, and English-as-a-Second Language lessons; and (7) involve parents as active partners in the instruction of their children.
Turning Frustration into Success for English Language Learners.
Brice, Alejandro; Roseberry-McKibben, Celeste
Educational Leadership, v56 n7 p53-55 Apr 1999
To teach culturally and linguistically diverse learners with language-learning disabilities, teachers should ensure that students understand assigned tasks, seat students from similar linguistic backgrounds together, start lessons with lead statements, use varied questioning strategies, ask for summaries, use multimodal approaches, and relate information to students' background.
Conversations with a Latina Teacher about Education for Language-Minority Students with Special Needs.
Bos, Candace S.; Reyes, Elba I.
Elementary School Journal, v96 n3 p343-51 Jan 1996
Describes the beliefs, knowledge, and classroom practices of a successful bilingual special educator, noting factors that shaped her teaching, including her own experiences as a second-language learner. Notes the teacher's emphasis on interactive teaching that weaves students' first language and culture with direct instruction, practice, and transfer.
The Language-Minority Student and Special Education: Issues, Trends, and Paradoxes.
Gersten, Russell; Woodward, John
Exceptional Children, v60 n4 p310-22 Feb 1994
This article discusses issues in referral and special education instruction for students from language-minority groups. It discusses inadequacies in assessment and placement; development of effective and feasible instructional strategies through collaboration between bilingual education and special education; and potential solutions involving both academic skills instruction and a natural approach to language instruction.
The full text of most materials in the ERIC database with an "ED" followed by six digits is available through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) in microfiche, by email, or in paper copy. Approximately 80% of ERIC documents from 1993 to the present are available for online ordering and electronic delivery through the EDRS Web site. You can read ERIC documents on microfiche for free at many libraries with monthly subscriptions or specialized collections. To find an ERIC center near you, contact our User Services staff.
The full text of journal articles may be available from one or more of the following sources:
To obtain journals that do not permit reprints and are not available from your library, write directly to the publisher. Addresses of publishers are listed in the front of each issue of Current Index to Journals in Education and can now be accessed online through the CIJE Source Journal Index.
If you would like additional information about this or any topic related to language education or linguistics, contact our User Services Staff.
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