Disability or Language Difference: How Do We Decide?

Douglas Carothers 1, Christopher M. Parfitt 1

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp. 1-12

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Increased globalization has resulted in increased attendance of language minority students in schools worldwide. These language differences confound efforts to identify students with disabilities. This case study provides a hypothetical example of interaction between language, social, and academic difficulties in determining existence of a disability and planning appropriate academic programming for a recently immigrated elementary school student named Filipe. Users of this case must analyze and synthesize cultural, behavioral, academic, and linguistic information as well as apply knowledge of legal requirements and best practices to determine an appropriate course of action for Felipe. This case study clarifies the need for additional research regarding how to distinguish between presence of a disability and normal challenges of adapting to a new language and culture in academic settings.

Keywords: language minority, educational leadership, bi-lingual education, special education, English-language learner, principal responsibilities