July 16, 2020

⏰ English Learners and Specific Learning Disability


English Learners and Specific Learning Disability

As ESL ELD teachers we are always worried about misidentification of English learners.  Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is a language and literacy-related disability referring to a psychological processing disorder.  If focuses on understanding or using spoken or written language.   Determining whether an ELL’s learning difficulties are from language or something else is a tangled web. 

Like many ELD teachers, I am often asked questions from teams of teachers and specialists that seek clarification and guidance on deciding how to untangle this web.  This is a recent question/inquiry I received:
“For this little person, since you see other students with ELD needs, would you say her challenges are based on ELD needs or that it’s likely she has a learning disability? Any guidance or advice you could offer in this case would be greatly appreciated.”



As teams of educators ponder how to work best with English Learners they can reflect on a many different approaches.  Here is a preliminary list of considerations I offer our staff:





·      What different types of interventions has she had and what were the outcomes?
·      What kind of differentiation has been used in the classroom?
·      Has she been in classrooms with a teacher who has been trained in SIOP?
·   Consider whether the learning environment appropriately supports or has supported the student and her/his language needs.
·      Use the data supplied here to examine student language development and performance.
·      Conference with parents to see what THEY are noticing about their child.  Ask questions about the child’s language abilities in both English and and the native language.  This is important because students who do not have a solid foundation in their first language struggle much more when learning English.  Does the student have a strong native language?
·      Analyze student data to compare student progress in relation to peers who are making typical progress over time.
·      Where are the gaps?  If a phonics assessment has been made look for sounds/letter combinations that were incorrect.  Are those errors that are sounds or combinations that are different or nonexistent in the native language?





I would love to hear what considerations you offer your school teams when working with ELLs.

Happy Teaching!

   

  

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