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Placing English Language Learners in Special Education

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When do English language learners need to be placed in special education?

In the United States, there has been an increase in in the number of children from Spanish speaking backgrounds. The English Language Learners, commonly known as ELL’s, are being placed in Special Education without being properly tested for a learning disability. However there are a large number of ELL’s with learning disabilities in elementary grades that truly have a learning disability and are over looked. Many school districts have problems placing ELL’s. As a result these students end up in special education whether they have a learning disability or language impairment. Teachers are also indecisive when dealing with ELL’s. Most teachers recommend that ELL’s be placed in special education from day one. It is not because the child has a learning disability, it’s because most teachers are not properly trained to interact with ELL’s. Teachers also find it difficult, due to lack of training, having ELL’s with learning disabilities in their classrooms. More teachers would find their selves comfortable if they had training in dealing with ELL’s and ELL’s with learning disabilities. This paper discusses the issues and the concerns teachers have in dealing with ELLs and ELLs with disabilities, the challenges of identifying individuals with learning disabilities, and what type of assessments classify English Language Learners as having a learning disability.

First, teachers are rarely prepared to handle the challenges of assessing students who have a learning disability coupled with limited English proficiency (Haung, Milczarski, Raby, 2011). Teachers usually have trouble distinguishing between a learning disorders and acquiring a second language. Eve...

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..., K., Milczarski, E., & Raby, C. (2011). The Assessment of English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities: Issues, Concerns, and Implications. Education, 131(4), 732-739.

Kapantzoglou, M., Restrepo, M., & Thompson, M. S. (2012). Dynamic Assessment of Word Learning Skills: Identifying Language Impairment in Bilingual Children. Language, Speech & Hearing Services In Schools, 43(1), 81-96. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0095)

Wagner, R. K., Francis, D. J., & Morris, R. D. (2005). Identifying English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities: Key Challenges and Possible Approaches. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 20(1), 6-15. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2005.00115.x

Sullivan, A. L. (2011). Disproportionality in Special Education Identification and Placement of English Language Learners. Exceptional Children, 77(3), 317-334.
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