Spanglish Baby- Great Article: When Bilingualism is Confused with a Language Disability

In this article on Spanglish Baby the author summarizes an article about a parent, who is a teacher, that discusses her experience when her child failed a screening for language delays at her son's school. This parent also learned that at her preschool all Spanish speakers had also failed it. When she went for a complete individualized evaluation she learned her son is developing just fine! She also found out that this is a common occurrence and that in fact the assessments used maybe inappropriate for bilingual children as they assume children are monolingual. The fact is that bilingual children know as much as monolinguals but they know it in two languages. If you use a monolingual test, children may look as they are lagging behind the norming sample of students they are being compared to
Is it s language disorder/disability or a typical development process of bilingual and trilinguals? How do you know?

Here are my research-based recommendations:
Require that they do a complete family, medical, and educational history of your child

Required that they use multiple assessment by multiple assessors that are trained in administering assessments in the language of your child

Require that a home and classroom observation be conducted that monitor language in the natural context

Require that teachers monitor orla language development in both languages

Require that teachers monitor reading development in the language or languages of instruction

Require that your child is compared to a “true peer” not a monolingual but a child who has a similar background, culture, educational experiences, etc as your own child

Require that if an cognitive or intelligence test is required that they give a nonverbal test rather than language based test

Require that an outside expert be consulted, visit Center for Applied Linguistics for some additional information

Require that they consider all programs that support native language instruction be provided and offered

Here is the link to the Spanglish Baby Website
Here is the link to the California Teacher Association Magazine

Here is a link for education professionals on the topic:
My response in the RTI Action Network on Services for English Language learners with and without disabilities.
English Language Learners with Disabilities
Do you have any additional ideas to share?


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Claudia Rinaldi View All →

Professor Claudia Rinaldi is the Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Her areas of research are the implementation of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework in urban settings with English learners, teacher education in bilingual special education, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. Claudia has authored peer-reviewed publications and a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers. She lead and developed a graduate certificate program in Teaching Bilingual Students with Disabilities for general, ESL and special education teachers geared towards applying research-informed practices to the questions and processes of identifying whether it is a language difference or a learning disability. Claudia developed a college mentoring program called Pathways to Teacher Diversity for districts and teacher education programs to partner in identifying and supporting underrepresented high school students interested in teaching careers to successfully access and persist in college. She serves in various boards including the National Center for Learning Disabilities and serves as an expert for and the National Center for Intensive Interventions.

Professor Claudia Rinaldi believes that it is critical to prepare teacher leaders who may serve as advocates and allies and who will respond to the belief that all students can learn and succeed beyond barriers like culture, language, disability poverty, and marginalization in our country and globally.

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