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Bilingual Special Education
This document has been retired from the active collection
of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
It contains references or resources that may no longer be valid or up to date.
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E496
Authors: Leonard M. Baca and Hermes T. Cervantes
ED333618 May 1991
How Many Students Are Both Disabled and Bilingual?
Based on 1980 Census and Immigration and Naturalization Services records, it is estimated that there are 79 million school-age language minority children in the United States. This bilingual population is distributed throughout the United States with heavier concentrations in the southwest and northeast. The highest concentration is in the large urban areas.
Considering the overall population with limited English proficiency (LEP) in the United States, a critical question for bilingual special educators is how many of these students also have disabilities. According to the U.S. Office of Special Education, an estimated 948,000 children may both be linguistically different and have disabilities--a substantial population who could benefit from bilingual special education services.
Although overrepresentation is an issue in some school districts, a new problem of underrepresentation has also emerged in some areas (Ovando & Collier, 1985) because many LEP students with disabilities are being placed in bilingual education as an alternative to special education (Baca & Cervantes, 1989).
How Can Special Education and Bilingual Education Be Combined?
Developers of bilingual special education programs need to weigh three factors for each student: degree of disability; level of language proficiency in both English and the primary language; and intellectual capacity. The student's placement on each of these three continuums will determine the nature of instruction and the educational placement.
Students' degree of disability must be considered for program design, along with their intellectual capacities and their proficiencies in English and their other languages (Baca & Payon, 1989). For example, a student of average intelligence who has a high level of language proficiency in Spanish, a minimal level of ability in English, and limited visual acuity will require curricular services and placement different from those of a student who is linguistically limited in both languages, exhibits lower intellectual performance, and is severely language delayed.
What Variables Should Influence Placement Decisions?
Program placement should be the best fit between the student's needs and the available resources. Placement decisions for the bilingual exceptional student should reflect the type and nature of instruction to be provided, the language of instruction, the conveyor of instruction, the duration of instruction, and the student's learning needs and style. The following special education variables and bilingual factors should be addressed in identifying placements (Baca & Payon, 1989, p. 96):
What Is Needed to Get Started?
Operationalizing bilingual special education requires the creation of an instructional social system that involves active teaching of cognitive skills and includes the development of language skills while focusing on the acquisition of English. All instruction is prescribed in a manner that accommodates and remediates the student's exceptionality. Students must understand the directions and the nature of the tasks. Instruction must be provided within a relevant cultural context so that expectations can be understood by the student. Because language is the primary conveyor of instruction, the student's stronger language must be employed.
Based on the assumption that students learn best in their preferred language, bilingual special education is operationalized at each local level with each individual student in mind. The common thread is to provide for all students educational experiences that develop lifelong learning skills (Baca & Payon, 1989).
What Are the Basic Elements of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for These Children?
IEPs for exceptional bilingual students should include the following
What Are the Steps in Developing a Comprehensive Curriculum?
The four major partners in bilingual special education curriculum development are the parents, the mainstream teacher, the bilingual teacher, and the special education teacher. The following steps should be undertaken by this team:
What Should Be Considered in Selecting Materials for Bilingual Exceptional Children?
The following guidelines represent some of the many considerations
teachers should bear in mind when evaluating, selecting, adapting, or
How Can Materials Be Adapted?
Several guidelines for adapting commercial materials or developing
teacher-made materials are discussed in the literature (Harris &
Schultz, 1986; Lewis & Doorlag, 1987; Mandell & Gold, 1984). The
following list is not designed to be all inclusive; variations may be
required in order to meet individual needs.
Baca, L. M., & Cervantes H. T. (Eds.). (1989). The bilingual special education interface (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Baca, L. M., & Payon, R. M. (1989). Development of the bilingual special education interface. In L. M. Baca & H. T. Cervantes (Eds.), The bilingual special education interface (pp. 79-99). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Collier, C. (1989). Mainstreaming and bilingual exceptional children. In L. M. Baca & H. T. Cervantes (Eds.), The bilingual special education interface (pp. 257-290). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Collier, C., & Kalk, M.(1989). Bilingual special education curriculum development. In L. M. Baca & H. T. Cervantes (Eds.), The bilingual special education interface (pp. 205-229). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Harris, W. J., & Shultz, P. N. B. (1986). The special education resource program: Rationale and implementation. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Hoover, J. J., & Collier, C. (1989). Methods and materials for bilingual special education. In L. M. Baca & H. T. Cervantes (Eds.), The bilingual special education interface (pp. 231-255). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Lewis, R. B., & Doorlag, D. H. (1987). Teaching special students in the mainstream. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Mandell, C. J., & Gold, V. (1984). Teaching handicapped students. St. Paul, MN: West.
Ovando, C., & Collier, V. (1985). Bilingual and ESL classrooms: Teaching in multicultural contexts. New York: McGraw-Hill.
This digest is based on excerpts from The Bilingual Special Education
Interface, Second Edition, by Leonard M. Baca and Hermes T. Cervantes.
Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Company, 1989.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education