Language Diversity (by Luz & Grant)
Special education programs are a valuable resource for families of children with disabilities. Ideally, government’s intention for establishing these programs was to assist families with obtaining equal access to education and socialization for their children. However, as with many good intentions, unforeseen or unexpected obstacles sometimes interfere with its functioning according to plan. One such obstacle for special education is language diversity. The effectiveness and success of special education programs are being affected by language diversity issues. Cheatham (2011) states, “Despite the benefits of a family-centered approach and related IDEA (P.L. 108-446) legal mandates, research suggests that participation challenges continue for many families, particularly those who do not speak English well (e.g., Bailey et al., 1999; Harry, 2008; Lian & Fontanez-Phelan, 2001; Salas, 2004; Tellier-Robinson, 2000).” The other issue of concern is misplacement of English language learners (ELL) in special education due to being erroneously identified as learning disabled (LD). Sullivan (2011) provides this information, “The field continues to struggle with uncertainty regarding how to best provide instruction and access to English language curricula and an unclear role of special education in remediating learning difficulties (Artiles &C Klingner, 2006).” Anyone concerned with the success of special education and related programs, such as adapted physical education (APE), must take a closer look at these issues in order to prevent the failure of special education.
At first, interpreters may not be thought of as important contributors to the special education program however, we need to consider the influence they have for the successful outcome of special education meetings such as an IEP meeting. There are now an increasing number of parents whose primary language is other than English. Cheatham (2011) explains, “studies suggest that interpretation during special education meetings may be incomplete (DuFon, 1993; Klingner & Harry, 2006; Lipsit, 2003; Lo, 2008; Lopez, 2000), resulting in an inability by EI/ECSE programs to fulfill IDEA (P.L. 108-446) mandates (Harry, 1992; Klingner & Harry, 2006).” He also lists four common language interpretation concerns: addition errors (interpreter adds information), omission errors (interpreter leaves information out), substitution errors (interpreter exchanges one bit of information for another), and challenges arising from interpreter’s perception of roles (Cheatham, 2011). In one example, an interpreter confused a parent that someone named Wilson was working with their child.
As far as the issue of ELL’s being misidentified as learning disabled, Chu & Flores (2011) stated it best, “It is difﬁcult to distinguish English language learners (ELLs) with learning disabilities (LD) from those who do not have a learning disability because the two groups share many of the same characteristics (Ortiz and Maldonado-Colon 1986; Ortiz and Yates 2001). Among the characteristics shared are poor comprehension, difﬁculty following directions, syntactical and grammatical errors, and difﬁculty completing tasks (see Ortiz and Maldonado-Colon )... Each educator must use appropriate assessments to identify ELLs with LDs because misclassiﬁcation affects them for life; students who are labeled inappropriately are held to lower standards than they are capable of meeting. Furthermore, ELLs’ disproportionate in special education makes it difﬁcult for educators to serve the students who do have disabilities. Many challenges in identifying ELLs with LDs remain to be addressed.”
These issues have great implications for special education. Although, the issue of language interpretation is beyond the scope of responsibility for the special education teacher, it is important to be aware of the challenges that can arise because of this. As for the issue of misidentification of ELL’s as LD’s, there are things that special education teachers can do. Afterall, as Chu & Flores (2011) stated, the reality is that these students will be placed in special education classes and it will take away time from serving students who do have disabilities. So what can be done? One solution is to look for avenues that have been overlooked, physical education! There is a “potential of competitive games involving physical movement to facilitate the acquisition of a second or foreign language and…such activities can promote educational development too (Tomlinson & Masuhara, 2009).” Also, “As physical educators integrate language arts into their teaching, motor skills are taught and literacy concepts are reinforced. The repetitive nature of hearing, seeing, and saying vocabulary and sight words within physical education can facilitate literacy development (Solomon & Murata, 2013).”
Cheatham, G. A. (2011). Language Interpretation, Parent Participation, and Young Children with Disabilities. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 2011 31: 78 originally published online 4 August 2010. DOI: 10.1177/0271121410377120
Conroy, P. (2012). Collaborating with Cultural and Linguistically Diverse Families of Students in Rural Schools Who Receive Special Education Services. Rural Special Education Quarterly,31(3), 24-28.
SULLIVAN, A. L. (2011). Disproportionality in Special Education Identification and Placement of English Language Learners. Exceptional Children, 77(3), 317-334.
Chu, S., & Flores, S. (2011). Assessment of English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities. Clearing House, 84(6), 244-248. doi:10.1080/00098655.2011.590550
Max, M. A.Perceptions of culturally and linguistically diverse parents of preschool children with speech and language impairments.(Order No. AAI3509854, Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1355854800?accountid=10346. (prod.academic_MSTAR_1355854800; 2013-99070-234).
Holland, S (2013). Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators Hearing, Seeing, and Signing in Elementary Physical Education Published online: 18 Jan 2013
Gomez, C & Jimenez-Silva, M (2013). Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators The Physical Educator as a Language Teacher for English Language Learners Arizona State University Published online: 22 Jan 2013.
Schultz, J (2013). Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance Ensuring the Success of Deaf Students in Inclusive Physical Education Published online: 30 Apr 2013.
Solomon, J & Nathan M. (2013) Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators Physical Education and Language Arts: An Interdisciplinary Teaching Approach Published online: 23 Jan 2013
Tomlinson, B & Masuhara, H (2009). Playing to Learn: A Review of Physical Games in Second Language Acquisition Simulation Gaming 2009 40: 645 originally published online 24 July 2009 DOI: 10.1177/1046878109339969