English Language Learners’ Struggles Signs of Difficulty-or Disability

English Language Learners’ Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability?

If you were to compile a list of the total number of English Language Learners currently enrolled in the K-12 public school system of the United States, how many students do you think would be counted? One million? Two million? As of the 2016-2017 school year, the most recent data gathered by the U.S. Department of Education, there are almost 4.9 million English Language Learners currently enrolled! Now imagine for a moment that you are one of these students. While it is challenging enough to learn the curriculum of your grade level, try learning all of it while also understanding the language. Learning this way might be problematic. Right? Now, imagine that you have a learning disability that prevents you from deciphering the specific nuances of the words you are reading. This takes the challenges of learning to an entirely new level.

At this time, K-12 teachers across the United States face teaching students just like the example described in the above paragraph. However, the teacher does not always know that the student has a learning disability because learning a new language is enough of a struggle on its own.  How long will it take for the teacher to discover that their student is taking so long to grasp a specific concept is not just because they don't have a full mastery of the English language. Is it because they have a learning disability that requires special attention? Professional Development Courses at the University of La Verne has created the course English Language Learner's Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability.


Importance of the Course English Language Learners’ Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability?

Most teachers are now encountering students who are not native-born, are not native English speakers, and are thus learning English in addition to their required subjects.  The English language is not easy.  Consider the difficulty that even native speakers have with speaking, reading, and writing English. 

It is expected that many English Language Learners (ELLs) will have difficulty.  Some students will have more problems than others for a variety of reasons.  One reason might be a Learning Disability.  Because many of the errors shown while learning English are the same in normal and in Learning Disabled students, teachers often cannot be sure how to help, and there is a risk of miss-assigning students to Special Education. The course English Language Learners' Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability, offered by Professional Development Courses at the University of La Verne, will help teachers approach this dilemma. 


Benefits of the Course English Language Learners’ Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability?

To better identify English Learners who need additional assistance because of a learning disability, this three-semester credit course provides evidence-based material that offers practical help to K-12 teachers, school administrators, and English Language Learners.

Topics include:

  • When confronted with an English Language Learner who is experiencing difficulties learning English, and especially learning to read English, maintain an attitude that the difficulties are unlikely to be attributable to a learning disability.
  • Know what other problems might account for the difficulties and what evidence needs to be gathered and presented to establish that a learning disability is present.
  • Know what aspects of the language acquisition process resemble a learning disability.
  • Know common misconceptions about English Language Learners and the process of learning a second language.
  • Know the basic learning processes to read (e.g., phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, etc.).
  • Learn a variety of teaching techniques to use to facilitate the learning process in English Language Learners.
  • Be able to select culturally and linguistically responsive teaching approaches.
  • Be familiar with the multi-tiered support systems that are available to help English Language Learners.
  • Consider the English Language Learner’s environment both inside and especially outside school.
  • Be familiar with assessment instruments typically used to evaluate an English Language Learner as learning disabled.
  • Know the features of an appropriate referral for Special Education.
  • Explore actions to take in a specific instance to decide whether an English Language Learner has trouble learning to read is or is not learning disabled.


English Language Learners’ Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability? Course Contents

It is now more important than ever to understand the difference between those struggling with a new language or those struggling because they have a learning disability. Various instructional strategies and examples are presented and identify common misconceptions about English Language Learners and the process of learning a new language. 

Course content includes:

  • Can we determine if an English Language Learner’sstruggles with reading in English are due to a learning disability or language acquisition?
  • Different types of English Language Learnersand why these distinctions are important.
  • Common misconceptions about English Language Learnersand the second language acquisition process.
  • How schools can establish structures to facilitate the process for distinguishing between language acquisition and learning disabilities.
  • Family involvement with English Language Learners.
  • Who should be referred for a comprehensive evaluation?
  • Multi-tiered system of supports.
  • Select reading methods for English Language Learners.
  • Special education assessments for English Language Learners.
  • Data-driven decision making.

The curriculum is designed for busy working K-12 teachers who want the flexibility and convenience of a distance learning course that will earn graduate credit from an accredited university. All content is self-paced, written in user-friendly language, and can be completed online or via emailed PDF format.

Successful completion of English Language Learners’ Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability can help teachers make noticeable impacts on the lives of their students. The new skills and credits received may also boost your professional career, qualifying you for potential promotions, pay increases, or license renewal/recertification.

This three-semester credit course counts towards the University of La Verne’s 15-credit certificate in Instructing and Supporting English Language Learners. Other popular course options for this certificate include:

Note, the University of La Verne is accreditedby the Western Association of Schools. Since requirements may vary, students should check with their school district or state department of education before enrolling in any course.

How to Register

English Language Learners’ Struggles: Signs of Difficulty—or Disability is completed in an online or via emailed PDF format. It is open for anyone to register at any time during each semester. After completion, students receive graduate, non-degree semester credit reflected on an official transcript from the university. 

Registration is fast and straightforward and can be done online or over the phone. Courses are offered on a rolling basis during three standard semesters, and you can begin whenever you are ready! Students may enroll in up to 15 credits each semester. The registration dates are:

  • Fall: September 1 - January 31
  • Spring: February 1 - May 31
  • Summer: June 1 - August 31

Many English Language Learners have difficulty learning English and succeeding in other subjects. However, equipping yourself with the knowledge, resources, and tools to know the difference between struggling with a language and struggling with a disability will give your students the boost they need to succeed as quickly and effectively as possible.

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