Learning Problems Vs. Language Problems Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Learning Problems vs Language Problems

The objective of this study is to examine how learning problems and language problems are related. Specifically considered will be the fact that when students who are learning English as their second language and who are experiencing academic or behavioral difficulties that the teacher and the school's problem-solving teams must examine whether these problems are related to learning a new language or whether the problems may be due to cognitive delays or developmental delay or disability.

The work of Fisher ( nd) entitled "Assessing English Language Learners for a Learning Disability or Language Issue" states that English language learners all "with learning disabilities...too often...fall through the cracks." (p.13) The reason stated for this is that these learners are often considered to be "slow English learners, or they may be in a school district that does not have enough resources to test them in their L1 for learning disabilities." (Fisher, nd, p. 13)

I. Reasons for Misdiagnosis

There are reported to be multiple reasons that English language learners are diagnosed with a learning disability and the first stated reason and the primary reason for misdiagnosis is that of "the issue of how to correctly diagnose an ELL." (Fisher, nd, p. 14) It is reported in the work of Fisher that the work of Geva (2000) made the observation that "too often ELLs were placed in special education classes on the basis of 'socioeconomic, linguistic and cultural factors rather than the psychoeducational factors." (p.14 cited in Fisher, nd, p. 14)

In addition, it is stated that the professionals "who were sued to dealing with and treating students in their L1 (English) were not trained or prepared for these different learners who had English as their L2" and that this "misinterpretation of the data that was collected to determine whether or not a student had a learning disability." (Geva, 2000, cited in Fisher, nd, p.14)

Moreover, study findings show that when a teacher makes a referral of an unprompted nature that the referral when based only on the teacher's personal observations were found to be less than accurate than when the English Language Learner was tested for some type of learning disability. The intuition of the teacher should not be held as completely viable. Assessing language learner's proficiency has been found to be a faulty method in testing for learning disabilities.

Teachers have also held the misconception that testing should not occur until the English Language Learner develops proficiency in the English language but it can take up to seven years for the English Language Learner to develop language proficiency and by this time the students has lost meaningful education time. Another mistake made by teachers is the belief that there should be an identifiable gap in what the English Language Learner has learned and what they are expected to have learned in a given time period. Finally, it is important to understand that hearing and vision problems may impact the progress of the English Language Learner.

II. Myths and the English Language Learner

There are several myths about Special Education and ESL. For example, when the English Language Learner is not responding, the educator should consider whether or not the student is in what is termed as the 'silent phase' which means that the English Language Learner is recording facts and data and is receptive to information however; the output of the English Language Learner is at this time limited. This period may last from six weeks up until six months. (WebEx Events, 2007, paraphrased) In addition, it takes up to a year of English Language Learning…

Sources Used in Document:


Recommended Practices for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Documentation of Learning Disabilities (2014) Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.ldao.ca/documents/Assessment%20Protocols_Sept%2003.pdf

Special Education and English Language Learners: Guidance for LEA Staff

An Overview of the ELL/SPED Programs and the Identification Process

(Webinar #1) (nd) Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Retrieved from: http://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/webinar/documents/ELL-QandA-12-09-13.pdf

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