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ELL's with learning disabilities

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Joined: 20 Jan 2011
Posts: 12
Location: New Jersey USA

PostPosted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 4:41 pm    Post subject: ELL's with learning disabilities Reply with quote

I recently read where English Language Learners were 63% more likely to be identified as learning disabled than general education students according to a 2005 study. I found this very interesting because in my district, which is heavily populated with Spanish-speaking ELL's, our child study team pretty much refuses to test ELL's for special education claiming the students have a language barrier and not learning disabilities. Our ESL teachers find this very frustrating as we see first hand that our students are suffering in the classroom and not receiving the accomodations they need. Does anyone have any advice or information on the legality of this?
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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We are having the same problem. They say that they have no tests to give the ELL students to determine whether they have learning disabilities or not. Yet the parents say that their children are falling behind in the native language community as well. It would probably just take a few test cases but it is very hard to get these parents to stand up for their rights. They are usually working two and three jobs and can't get to meetings and hearings.

If the students did get tested are their special educations teachers qualified in ELL to take them? I have never seen a course in this and it was seldom mentioned in our courses (only because I brought it up).

We put special education students in with the general population along with a teacher's aid, so that is one solution, but seems a very expensive one. We also use volunteers for one on one work with the students at an early age.
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Joined: 25 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:46 am    Post subject: Identifying Learning Disabilities Reply with quote

I am curious as to why the ESL teacher is not testing to see if the EL would benefit from bilingual education as opposed to special education. Does your district have bilingual education? I believe the child study team test for learning disabilities as a result of being mentally challenged, physically disabled etc, not language barriers. Being a LEP student is not necessarily a learning disability, so we shouldn’t be too quick to classify an EL as learning disabled. Given the proper bilingual services, I am sure the student can show or tell you exactly what they know. Now if what you are saying is that the student is functioning low academically in both languages then perhaps a medial referral is warranted. Perhaps with medical documentation the child study team may feel more open to testing to determine whether the student should be classified “learning disabled.” Just as an observation on my part, I sometimes find that the native community may not be literate in their language and even if they wanted to, are unable to help the student with their school work. Think about how counterproductive it can be to an LEP if we stick them in “special education” because they have not mastered the English language and are basically falling behind because they just don’t understand the language. As indicated previously, I believe “special education” is a classification for those who are mentally challenged, physically disabled, emotionally disturbed or have behavioral issues, not language barriers. In answer to your question, in my opinion, unfortunately ELs are more likely to be identified as learning disabled and placed in “special education” classes because it is easier then testing them for bilingual or related services. From the literature I have read, sadly this happens more often than not.
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