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ELL student case: Do you feel testing for a specific learning disability is the appropriate next step?

Bianca is an eight year old who was orphaned by a devastating tsunami in Indonesia at the age of five. Bianca was recently adopted by an English speaking family in Indiana and enrolled in third grade at James Madison Elementary. Her native language is Bahasa Indonesia and her adopted family only speaks limited phrases of this language.

Prior to coming to James Madison Elementary, Bianca's education has been sporadic and her English language development is limited. The practice for English Language Learners at James Madison Elementary is total immersion. Bianca is in a traditional third grade classroom and receives support from an ESL teacher (English as second language) for thirty minutes twice a week. Her teacher, Mrs. Perkins, is concerned because Bianca has made limited progress over the past three months and is essentially a non-reader. During a parent-teacher conference, Mrs. Perkins spoke with Bianca's parents concerning her language struggle and academic progress. She is considering referring Bianca for testing to determine if she has a specific learning disability. Bianca's parents fear labeling their young daughter and think she will catch up once she becomes proficient in English. They have asked Mrs. Perkins for additional intervention strategies before agreeing to assess for a specific learning disability.

Do you feel testing for a specific learning disability is the appropriate next step? Why or why not? If you were Mrs. Perkins, what intervention strategies might you try? What advice might you give Bianca's family? What affective issues might be impacting Bianca?

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Bianca lost her family at the young age of 5. She probably had to deal with temporary and possibly non-emotionally connected placements until she was finally adopted 3 years later. Bianca may not feel she needs to adapt to her new situation yet due to her past track record. Who can expect her to learn to read in 3 months in a different language that isn't just like her own? Not to mention that if she doesn't read in her native tongue it makes it even more difficult for a student to read in her new language. She is still building relationships with her new family. ...