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Strategies to identify and support English learners with learning disabilities

As the population of students who are English learners (EL students) increases, and the numbers of students with disabilities also are on the rise, educators often struggle with how to assess and address individuals’ needs. If an EL student experiences academic difficulties, is the issue one of language acquisition, a learning disability, or some other factor(s)? Educators also may not know where to turn for assistance. As a result, some EL students are under-identified for special education services while others are over-identified. The brief presents a summary of research and practice, based on our 2015 review, with a comparison of 15 guidance manuals for educators and other noteworthy resources for policymakers, administrators, and practitioners.


"States Struggle to Identify, Support ELLs with Learning Disabilities" (June 6, 2016) Education Week

"What We (Don't) Know About English-Learners and Special Education" (July 22, 2015) Education Week

REL West Report: Identifying and Supporting English Learner Students with Learning Disabilities: Key Issues in the Literature and State Practice