Profiles of elementary-age English language learners with reading-related learning disabilities (LD) identified as speech and language impaired prior to, at, or after identification as LD
This study examined the characteristics of 14 English Language Learners classified as having learning disabilities (LD) who were also identified as having speech and language impairments (SI) prior to, at, or after initial identification as LD. Data were collected under the auspices of a longitudinal study, Bilingual Exceptional Students: Effective Practices for Oral Language and Reading Instruction, conducted by multicultural special education faculty at the University of Texas at Austin between 1999 and 2002. Participants were served in bilingual education and bilingual special education programs in a large, central Texas school District. Archival data from students’ cumulative, bilingual and special education records were analyzed to profile student characteristics at the point of their initial LD and SI eligibility determinations. A clinical judgment panel comprised of bilingual special education experts analyzed student data and made independent eligibility recommendations for each participant. These recommendations were compared to the multidisciplinary teams (MDTs’) eligibility decisions. Findings revealed that MDTs based eligibility primary on the presence of an IQ-achievement discrepancy and did not adequately consider factors, other than the presence of LD that could explain student difficulties. When data other than the IQ-achievement discrepancy were considered, the clinical judgment panel classified 4 participants as LD and 9 as having disabilities other than LD; the panel felt that data for one student were insufficient to make an eligibility recommendation. Findings related to identification of SI for this population were limited because students were assessed using a Spanish translation of an English speech and language assessment developed by the district. Test results corroborated parents’ and teachers’ concerns that these students had significant communication problems. Implications for improving practices related to early intervention, referral, assessment, and eligibility determinations for ELLs are presented and suggestions for future research are delineated.