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Identifying Learning Disabilities (LD) in Culturally Diverse Students (January 2003)

As a school psychologist, I receive several special education referrals each year for ESL students who "aren't making expected progress." Where can I find information to assist teachers and myself for determining if the problem is related to English as a second language or a learning disability?

As you probably know, appropriate identification and placement of English language learners who may also have learning differences/special needs can be quite difficult, as it's often hard to tell what may be a language problem and what may be a learning problem— two often look very similar. There is quite a bit of research available on this topic that may be of help to you.

Following are links to related ERIC Digests, minibibliographies, frequently asked questions (FAQs), Internet resources, and Internet discussion groups, as well as selected citations from the ERIC database and the search terms we used to find the citations.

You can search the ERIC database yourself on the Internet through either of the following web sites:

ERIC Citations

The full text of citations beginning with an ED number (for example, EDxxxxxx) is available:

  • In microfiche collections worldwide; to find your nearest ERIC Resource Collection, point your web browser to: http://ericae.net/derc.htm.
  • For a fee through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS): http://edrs.com, service@edrs.com, or 1.800.443.ERIC. (no longer available)

The full text of citations beginning with an EJ number (for example, EJxxxxxx) is available for a fee from:

ERIC Search Terms Used

English (second language)


special education OR disabilities




adult basic education



ED464429 EC308930
Meeting the Special Needs of Dual Language Learners with Disabilities: Integrating Data Based Instruction and the Standards for Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages.
Beckett, Carol; Nevin, Ann; Comella, Serena; Kane, Nancy; Romero, Priscilla; Bergquist, Glenn
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children/Arizona Federation (Phoenix, AZ, February 8-9, 2002).
Pages: 23
Publication Date: 2002
Language: English
Document Type: Reports-Descriptive (141); Conference papers (150)
Geographic U.S.; Arizona
This paper on meeting the needs of students with disabilities who are learning English as a second language suggests integrating principles from the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Standards and Data Based Instruction (DBI). The power of combining intentional language teaching with an action research process is illustrated by four case studies conducted by special education interns in a multicultural setting. The case studies apply these principles with a teenage male with emotional handicaps, a teenage female with learning disabilities, a teenage female with mild mental retardation, and a first grade girl with language delays, all of whom were bilingual Spanish/English students. The paper concludes that using TESOL Standards, sheltered English techniques, and other English as a Second Language strategies allowed students to be more successful communicators as well as to make progress toward achieving Individualized Education Program goals and objectives.
Descriptors: *Disabilities; *English (Second Language); *Intervention; *Limited English Speaking; *Spanish Speaking; Action Research; Bilingual Education; Case Studies; Diagnostic Teaching; Elementary Secondary Education; Individualized Instruction; Remedial Instruction

EJ636986 EA538926
Assessing ESOL Students.
Abrams, Judy; Ferguson, Julia; Laud, Leslie
Educational Leadership; v59 n3 p62-65 Nov 2001
Publication Date: 2001
Language: English
Document Type: Journal articles (080); Reports--Descriptive (141)
Discusses six questions to help teachers differentiate between the ability and performance of students with learning disabilities and those whose native language is not English. Describes experience with individual students. Recommends that ESOL and special-education teachers collaborate in diagnostic process.
Descriptors: *English (Second Language); *Language Teachers; *Special Education Teachers; Elementary Secondary Education; Learning Disabilities; Teacher Collaboration

EJ632604 EC628201
Tips for Teaching: Improving Academic Success for Diverse-Language Learners.
Sheppard, Sherille
Preventing School Failure, v45 n3 p132-35 Spr 2001
Publication Date: 2001
Notes: Theme Articles: Featured Topic. Transition: Policy and Proven Practice for the New Millennium.
Language: English
Document Type: Guides--Non-classroom (055); Journal articles (080)
This article first discusses the characteristics of students who are learning English as a second language and of students with disabilities that affect academic achievement. Then it describes strategies for use in the general education classroom including: (1) developing listener-friendly lectures, (2) adapting textbooks, (3) adapting assignments, and (4) providing opportunities for cooperative learning.
Descriptors: Cooperative Learning; *Disabilities; Elementary Secondary Education; *English (Second Language); Inclusive Schools; *Limited English Speaking; Student Characteristics; *Teaching Methods

EJ632237 CS761314
The Evils of the Use of IQ Tests To Define Learning Disabilities in First- and Second-Language Learners.
Gunderson, Lee; Siegel, Linda S.
Reading Teacher, v55 n1 p48-55 Sep 2001
Publication Date: 2001
Language: English
Document Type: Guides--Non-classroom (055); Journal articles (080)
Considers how IQ tests may not be an effective means of identifying English-as-a-second language (ESL) students with learning disabilities due to inherent cultural biases of the tests. Concludes that the use of IQ tests with ESL or English-dialect students is inappropriate when the student's first or primary language is different from the language of the test.
Descriptors: Elementary Secondary Education; *English (Second Language); *Evaluation Methods; Higher Education; *Intelligence Quotient; *Intelligence Tests; *Learning Disabilities; Testing Problems

ED450135 TM032325
The Impact of Preference for Accommodations: The Performance of English Language Learners on Large-Scale Academic Achievement Tests. CSE Technical Report.
Castellon-Wellington, Martha
Author Affiliation: California Univ., Los Angeles. Center for the Study of Evaluation; Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, Los Angeles, CA.
Pages: 39
Publication Date: June 2000
Sponsoring Agency: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Availability: National Center for Research on Evaluation, CRESST/CSE, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1522. Tel: 310-206-1532.
Language: English
Document Type: Reports--Research (143); Test/questionnaires (160)
Geographic U.S.; California
As part of a study of the inclusion of English language learners (ELLs) in large-scale assessments, this study investigated the potential role of student preference in the use of accommodations with large-scale assessments and the effects of two test accommodations, providing extra assessment time and reading test items aloud, on the standardized test performance of 106 ELLs in seventh-grade social studies classrooms. In addition, the study investigated the relationships among the accommodations students preferred and these background variables: (1) length of time in the United States; (2) amount of education prior to arrival in the United States; and (3) English language proficiency. Students completed a background questionnaire and a standardized test in social studies without accommodations. They were then asked to identify which of the two accommodations they would prefer. A parallel form of the test was administered with accommodations. One third of the students received the accommodation they preferred, while a third received the accommodation not of their preferences, and the other third received one of the accommodations at random. Data analysis found that students did not improve their performance significantly with either accommodation, even when given their preferred accommodation. No significant relationships were found between accommodation preference and various background variables. An appendix contains the study questionnaire.
Descriptors: *Academic Accommodations (Disabilities); Achievement Tests; *English (Second Language); *Junior High School Students; Junior High Schools; Limited English Speaking; Scores; Test Results

ED442308 FL801383
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.
Pages: 78
Publication Date: 1998
Notes: This notebook is a product of Young Adults with Learning Disabilities Project (YALD), Pittsfield Public Schools Adult Learning Center, Hampden County Sheriff's Department and Correctional Center, and the Learning Connection.Sponsoring Agency: Massachusetts State Dept. of Education, Boston. Bureau of Community Education and Adult Services.
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC04 Plus Postage.
Language: English
Document Type: Guides--Classroom--Teacher (052)
Geographic U.S.; Massachusetts
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. (Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education)
Descriptors: Adult Education; Bilingual Education Programs; *Classroom Techniques; *Educational Diagnosis; Educational Legislation; *English (Second Language); Federal Legislation; *Learning Disabilities; Limited English Speaking; Questionnaires; Second Language Instruction; Second Language Learning; Teacher Education

EJ585640 EA535886
Turning Frustration into Success for English Language Learners.
Brice, Alejandro; Roseberry-McKibben, Celeste
Educational Leadership, v56 n7 p53-55 Apr 1999
Publication Date: 1999
Language: English
Document Type: Journal articles (080); Reports--Evaluative (142)
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.
Descriptors: *Classroom Techniques; Cultural Awareness; Elementary Secondary Education; *English (Second Language); Homogeneous Grouping; *Language Proficiency; *Learning Disabilities; *Regular and Special Education Relationship; *Teaching Methods; Wait Time

ED427448 EC307010
Teaching English-Language Learners with Learning Difficulties: Guiding Principles and Examples from Research-Based Practice.
Gersten, Russell; Baker, Scott K.; Marks, Susan Unok
Author Affiliation: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, Reston, VA; Council for Exceptional Children, Reston, VA.
Pages: 72
Publication Date: October 1998
Notes: "This publication is an expansion of 'Strategies for Teaching English-Language Learners,' by Russell Gersten, Scott K. Baker, and Susan Unok Marks,which appeared as a chapter in 'Teaching Every Child Every Day: Learning in Diverse Schools and Classrooms,' Karen R. Harris, Steve Graham, and Don Deshler, eds."; see ED 414 396.
Sponsoring Agency: Special Education Programs (ED/OSERS), Washington, DC. @Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC03 Plus Postage.
Language: English
Document Type: Book (010); Guides--Non-classroom (055); ERIC product (071)
Geographic U.S.; Virginia
This guide provides practical information for teachers and others working with students who have learning difficulties (such as learning or language disabilities) and for whom English is a second language. Emphasis is on productive instructional strategies and approaches. The book is based on results of focus groups comprised of practicing teachers as well as a review of the research literature on effective instructional practices with English-language learners. Following an introductory chapter, the underlying concepts of "comprehensible input" and "meaningful access to the general curriculum" are explained in the next two chapters. Chapter 4 addresses problems in trying to provide meaningful access through comprehensible input, whereas chapter 5 considers approaches to increasing meaningful access through comprehensible input. Chapter 6 focuses on the teaching of academic language and chapter 7 offers useful initial teaching strategies. The following chapter considers what teachers can do to provide meaningful access to the general curriculum. Chapter 9 offers specific strategies to build comprehension and other language abilities. The final chapter explains key instructional principles such as teacher "think alouds" and modeling, use of concrete examples to explain concepts, importance of consistent language, the need to balance cognitive and language demands, and the value of peers in language development.
Descriptors: *Classroom Techniques; Curriculum Design; *English (Second Language); Focus Groups; Instructional Effectiveness; Language Impairments; *Learning Disabilities; *Limited English Speaking; Peer Relationship; Research Utilization; *Teaching Methods; *Theory Practice Relationship

EJ573715 FL528502
Cultural Differences in Conceptions of Disability: Central America and the Caribbean.
Grossman, Shana R.
TESOL Journal, v7 n5 p38-41 Aut 1998
Publication Date: 1998
Language: English
Document Type: Journal articles (080); Reports--General (140)
Discusses the nature of special education in Central America and the Caribbean, including policies, programs, definitions, and attitudes regarding disabilities. Also highlights factors in mainstream education that may be related to U.S. educators' perceptions of disabilities and offers recommendations for U.S. educators, especially English-as-a-Second-Language teachers.
Descriptors: *Attitudes toward Disabilities; Cultural Differences; *Disabilities; Diversity (Student); Elementary Secondary Education; *English (Second Language); Foreign Countries; Immigrants; Language Teachers; *Mainstreaming; *Regular and Special Education Relationship; Second Language Instruction

EJ568811 FL528233
Reaching Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Young Learners with Disabilities.
Marcus, Susanne D.; Ames, Margery E.
TESOL Journal, v7 n4 p10-17 Sum 1998
Publication Date: 1998
Language: English
Document Type: Journal articles (080); Reports--Descriptive (141)
Describes how cross-over training and a whole-school approach help preschool educators assist disabled students who have not yet acquired their native language, examining New York's English-as-a Second-Language/Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Training Program for Pre-K Special Education Personnel, which trains preschool personnel to meet culturally and linguistically diverse students' social, emotional, and academic needs.
Descriptors: Bilingual Education; Bilingualism; *Cultural Differences; Developmental Delays; *Disabilities; *Diversity (Student); *English (Second Language); *Holistic Approach; Language Minorities; Limited English Speaking; Mentors; Paraprofessional School Personnel; Preschool Education; Preschool Teachers; Second Language Instruction; Special Education Teachers

ED423663 FL025108
Bilingual/English as a Second Language Programs, Models, and Organizational Designs for General and Special Education Students.
Author Affiliation: New York City Board of Education, Brooklyn, NY. Office of Bilingual Education.(BBB08985)
Pages: 93
Publication Date: 1996
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC04 Plus Postage.
Language: English Document Type: Reports--Descriptive (141) Geographic U.S.; New York
This booklet charts models and organizational designs for existing bilingual/ English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) programs in New York City. The objective is to present design options for districts expanding bilingual/ESL services to special education, under city policy. An introductory section gives background on program mandates, models, implementation procedures, key design principles, teacher training/certification issues, and fiscal considerations.
Descriptors: *Bilingual Education Programs; Elementary Secondary Education; *English (Second Language); Financial Support; Limited English Speaking; *Program Design; Program Development; Public Policy; Second Language Programs; *Special Education; Teacher Certification; Teacher Education

ED416685 FL025081
Language Differences or Learning Disabilities? Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Students from Non-English-Language Backgrounds. Language in Education: Theory and Practice, 86.
Fradd, Sandra
Author Affiliation: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, Washington, DC.
Pages: 102
Publication Date: 1997
Sponsoring Agency: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Available from: EDRS Price MF01/PC05 Plus Postage.
Language: English
Document Type: ERIC product (071)
Geographic U.S.; District of Columbia
This monograph examines recent trends in the education of students from non-English-language backgrounds and cultures who may have learning difficulties or possible disabilities. Chapter 1 provides an overview of policy issues with respect to the education of students learning English as a new language and the interface between regular education, special education, and English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL)/bilingual programs. Chapters 2 and 3 describe procedures followed at Newport Elementary School in its efforts to enhance the learning opportunities of non-English-background students and to incorporate them into mainstream instruction. Chapters 4 and 5 present case studies of two such students experiencing learning difficulties and failing to progress in their current programs. Both studies illustrate how special attention and collaborative problem-solving are important for ensuring that all students are provided appropriate instruction. The final chapter focuses on assessment and instructional planning and implementation.
Descriptors: Classroom Techniques; Elementary Education; *English (Second Language); Identification; Individual Differences; Instructional Design; *Learning Disabilities; *Learning Problems; *Limited English Speaking; Second Language Instruction; *Special Education; Student Evaluation; Student Needs

EJ559504 EC618089
Preparing Future Bilingual Special Educators: The Lessons We've Learned.
Bay, Mary; Lopez-Reyna, Norma
Teacher Education and Special Education, v20 n1 p1-10 Win 1997
Publication Date: 1997
Language: English
Document Type: Journal articles (080); Reports--Descriptive (141)
Describes the goals and curriculum of a teacher education program designed to prepare 20 individuals to teach limited English proficient children with disabilities. The critical features of bilingual special education teacher preparation programs are discussed, including the need to teach how to create culturally responsive classrooms.
Descriptors: *Bilingual Education; Cultural Awareness; Curriculum Design; *Disabilities; Educational Objectives; Elementary Secondary Education; *English (Second Language); Higher Education; *Limited English Speaking; Preservice Teacher Education; Special Education; Teacher Education Programs

EJ518679 PS524620
Reciprocal Teaching of Reading Comprehension Strategies for Students with Learning Disabilities Who Use English as a Second Language.
Klingner, Janette Kettmann; Vaughn, Sharon
Elementary School Journal, v96 n3 p275-93 Jan 1996
Publication Date: 1996
Notes: Theme issue on "The Language-Minority Student in Transition."
Language: English
Document Type: Journal articles (080); Reports--Research (143)
Investigated the efficacy of two related reciprocal teaching interventions--with cooperative grouping or with cross-age tutoring--on the reading comprehension of learning disabled English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students. Found no significant difference between the two groups: both made comprehension gains and continued to improve when provided minimal adult support.
Descriptors: Cooperative Learning; Cross Age Teaching; Elementary Education; *Elementary School Students; *English (Second Language); Grade 7; Grade 8; Intervention; *Learning Disabilities; *Reading Comprehension; *Reading Improvement; Reading Skills; Speech Skills; Tutoring

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