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Preparing Professionals to Serve English-Language Learners with Communication Disorders.

The diversity of the nation's school-age population is increasing rapidly. The challenge of assuring that all students have access to appropriate opportunities for literacy development and academic instruction requires comprehensive educational reform and collaboration among professionals at all levels and across disciplines. The power of collaboration lies in the capacity and willingness of individual professionals to develop their own areas of expertise as well as to merge skills to develop cadres of personnel who can collaborate in promoting student achievement. This article discusses both the challenges and opportunities the nation faces in attaining educational equity through the preparation of cadres of professionals to meet the educational needs of English-language learners with communication disorders.
   When 7-year-old Brian arrived from Puerto Rico, I noticed that he didn't
   participate with the other students in my first-grade class. Most of the
   time he was quiet. Because I thought he was just beginning to learn
   English, I wasn't initially concerned. Although he was receiving English
   for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for 2 hours a day, he wasn't making
   progress in English, and I became concerned. I discussed the difficulties
   with his mother, and we decided to refer him for assessment. After testing,
   the speech-language pathologist reported that Brian had language delays and
   articulation errors in Spanish and that he was experiencing similar
   difficulties in English. In addition to continuing ESOL, speech-language
   services in English and Spanish were recommended. As Brian's teacher, I
   want to be part of the "team" to help Brian become a successful student,
   but I don't know what to do. I've never had a student like Brian before.
   (teacher interview)

As this vignette illustrates, many classroom teachers are not prepared to address the instructional needs of students from diverse language backgrounds, especially when the students are experiencing learning difficulties. Several decades ago, the student described in the vignette would have represented only a small percentage of the school-age population. Over the past two decades, the preparation of personnel to meet the instructional needs of English-language learners (ELLs) has not kept pace with the increasing ethnolinguistic diversity. Personnel shortages are particularly acute for students with special learning needs (Roseberry-McKibben & Eicholtz, 1994).

Within the next two decades, diversity in U.S. public schools is expected to increase substantially (P. R. Campbell, 1996; U.S. Census Bureau, 1993). The National Center for Education Statistics (1997) predicted an increase of 50% or more by 2010 in the numbers of Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Alaskan Native students attending public schools. During this same time period, the White, monolingual, English-speaking student population is expected to decrease by more than 10%.

The probability that teachers will have students such as Brian in their classrooms increases annually. Current statistics and future projections underscore the importance of preparing all educational professionals (e.g., teachers, school psychologists, speech-language pathologists (SLPs), and administrators) to meet the needs of ethnolinguistically diverse students. Although preparation in providing appropriate assessment and instruction for students with special learning needs would occur differently for distinct groups of educational professionals (e.g., general educators, special educators, bilingual teachers, English for Speakers of Other Languages [ESOL] teachers, SLPs), specific areas of preparation are relevant across disciplines (Baca, Fradd, & Collier, 1990).

Efforts to prepare personnel to meet the educational needs of students who are learning English but also have disabilities are not simple or straightforward. The move for educational reform influences the way educational services are conceptualized and provided, the skills and competencies that educational professionals are expected to demonstrate, and the paradigms that define and address students' learning needs. Although the call for reform and accountability across instructional areas is clear (Porter, 1999/2000), guidelines and procedures for increasing the number of personnel who are prepared to serve ethnolinguistic students with special needs must be developed (Quezada, Wiley, & Ramirez, 1999/2000).

Currently, schools are being challenged by the need to find bilingual and ESOL teachers who can work with ELLs. Professionals who would be responsible for dealing with the special learning requirements of these students include SLPs, special education teachers, general education teachers, ESOL teachers, and bilingual program staff members (Gopaul-McNicol Thomas-Presswood, 1998). The national shortage of bilingual, ESOL, and special education teachers and of bilingual SLPs suggests that the numbers of personnel required to serve ELLs with communication disorders simply are not adequate (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1999; Billingsley, 1993; L. R. Campbell, Brennan, & Steckol, 1992; Kayser, 1995; Wald, 1996). If expectations of educational equity and reform are to be achieved for all students, cadres of these types of professionals must be created.

With respect to the special needs of ELLs with communication disabilities, the issues involve simultaneously providing appropriate services that are responsive to the students' disabilities, cultural characteristics, and language needs (Brice, 1994; Brice & Montgomery, 1996; Cloud, 1993; Roseberry-McKibben, 1995) while meeting local, state, and federal regulations and guidelines (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1985; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] of 1990; U.S. Department of Education, 1996).

For example, the IDEA amendments of 1990 specified that students must be ensured a free, appropriate public education, determined on an individualized basis, designed to meet specific needs in the least restrictive environment, and protected through due process (U.S. Department of Education, 1996). Specifically, IDEA and legislation that emanated from certain court decisions contain particular provisions designed to ensure that nondiscriminatory evaluations are conducted and that equal educational opportunities are afforded to ELLs with special needs (U.S. Department of Education, 1996). Education agencies seeking federal funds for providing special education services must show evidence that they are providing all students with appropriate services, which include personnel preparation; use of procedures ensuring accurate, nonbiased, or nondiscriminatory assessment; and instruction leading to effective educational outcomes (McNeilly & Coleman, 2000; Montgomery, 1994; J. Taylor, 1992; U.S. Education Department, 1996).

The purpose of this article is to discuss both the challenges and opportunities that U.S. public schools encounter in attaining educational equity through the preparation of cadres of professionals to serve ELLs with communication disorders. Specifically, this article discusses commonalties and differences across professional preparation areas as they relate to meeting the educational needs of ELLs with communication disorders. It also discusses how cadres of professionals can be developed to enhance effective service delivery. Finally, this article discusses an agenda for expanding the professional preparation knowledge base to promote literacy and achievement for ELLs with communication disorders.


The commonalities and differences in paradigms under which professionals are prepared influence the services they provide (Wood, 1998). Although few teachers believe they are sufficiently prepared to meet the learning needs of ELLs (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999), the knowledge base and the expectations established by local school districts, states, and the federal government provide a starting point for identifying the components that should be included in a comprehensive personnel preparation program. Within the confines of this article it is not possible to provide an exhaustive review of the literature or to identify all of the commonalities and differences relevant to specific preparation programs. Our purpose here is to underscore the importance of understanding both the similarities and unique qualities of the perspectives that professionals contribute in collaborating to create appropriate programming for ELLs. In our research, we have found the following: (a) three important commonalities that present challenges that are not often discussed and (b) three differences that professional groups bring to the instructional process.


By identifying commonalities in addressing the educational needs of ELLs, those responsible for providing comprehensive professional development can encourage collaboration in conceptualizing and addressing students' learning needs. Although many commonalities exist across professional areas, we focused on three:

1. the emerging paradigm of literacy development,

2. a common knowledge base, and

3. attitudes toward language services.

Emerging Paradigm of Literacy Development. Although literacy and a focus on reading instruction have been explored over the past 25 years (Ball, 1997; Canady & Krantz, 1996; Catts, 1991, 1993; Catts & Kamhi, 1986; Van Kleeck, 1990), the results of research in the decade of the 1990s are just now reaching the schools (Butler, 1999a). The establishment in 1998 of the Reading Excellence Act, the increased recognition of an "oracy to literacy continuum" (Butler, 1999b, p. 15), and the emergence of powerful new evidence regarding language and literacy (Blachman, 1998; Catts & Kamhi, 1999; National Reading Council, 1999; Swanson, 1999) have highlighted the role of literacy in instruction throughout the nation.

The prioritization of literacy as a national goal has created a paradigm shift in terms of the instructional services professionals are expected to provide (Snow, Scarborough, & Burns, 1999; Van Kleeck, Gillam, & McFadden, 1998). Although classroom teachers have recognized the importance of literacy instruction for many years, the resurging emphasis on literacy awareness and skills encompasses all educational service providers. This growing emphasis suggests that not just new personnel, but seasoned professionals as well, may need specialized preparation to effectively meet the learning needs of ELLs (Butler, 1999b).

Although some SLPs and other professionals are well prepared and highly skilled in providing literacy instruction, many are not (Snow et al., 1999). For many years most SLPs saw themselves and their responsibilities primarily in terms of dealing with oral language (Fey, 1999; Stark, 1975, 1981). Given the growing scope and increasing areas of practice, SLPs can make a unique contribution to facilitating literacy because of the reciprocal relationships between spoken and written language (Butler, 1999b).

In spite of the challenges posed by the growing attention to literacy, this paradigm shift provides a common goal and set of expectations for defining and meeting the learning needs of ELLs (Snow et al., 1999). The expectation that all children receive appropriate literacy instruction offers compelling reasons for various professionals to identify shared knowledge bases, strategies, and skills. Inherent in such efforts is recognition of the depth of knowledge required to accurately determine and meet the literacy development needs of ELLs with communication disorders. The importance of collaboration becomes apparent in identifying assessment procedures, understanding instructional materials and resources, and using strategies and skills to promote literacy and academic achievement. A shared paradigm, such as a focus on literacy development, allows all professionals to contribute to this mission (Clair, 1998).

Identified Knowledge Base. Over the past several decades, research has begun to provide an identified professional knowledge base for working with ELLs (August & Hakuta, 1997; Cheng, 1996; Cornell, 1995; Cummins, 1992; Fradd & Lee, 1998). A special 1998 issue of the TESOL Quarterly (Freeman & Johnson, 1998a) focused on the current lack of a professional knowledge base and the importance of creating a comprehensive perspective on professional preparation that integrates the fields serving ELLs (Bailey, Curtis, & Nunan, 1998; Bailey, Hawkins, et al., 1998; Freeman & Johnson, 1998b). In addition to highlighting the need for knowledge base development, the special issue also emphasized the importance of research in determining the most relevant and appropriate ways to prepare professionals to meet learners' needs (Burton, 1998; Clair, 1998; Freeman, 1998).

Sets of competencies have also been identified as important in preparing school personnel to work with ELLs with special needs (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1998a, 1998b; Baca et al., 1990; Battle, 1998; Kayser, 1995; Langdon & Cheng, 1992; Langdon & Saenz, 1996; Roseberry-McKibben, 1995; Yates & Ortiz, 1991), and four primary areas have been identified:

* An understanding of the process of second-language acquisition (Anderson, 1997; L. R. Campbell & Taylor, 1992; Chamot & O'Malley, 1990; Dopke, 1992a, 1992b; Flege, 1995; Goldstein, 2000; Hux, Morris-Friehe, & Sanger, 1993; Pennington, 1996)

* Skills in assessing academic and social language development (Adler, 1991; Cummins, 1984; Fradd & Larrinaga McGee, 1994; Kayser, 1998; Saenz, 1996; Stockman, 1996; Wang-Fillmore, 1991)

* Knowledge of appropriate materials and strategies for literacy and language learning (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1998b; Barrera, 1997; Cheng, 1998; DeLeon & McCarthy, 1998; Furniss & Green, 1991; Genesee, 1999; Hudelson, 1994)

* Cross-cultural communication in working with diverse students (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1985; Battle, 1998; Gutierrez-Clellen, Pena, & Quinn, 1995; Lynch & Hanson, 1992; McLean, 1981; Scarcella, 1990; O. Taylor, 1999)

The current knowledge base provides a foundation for addressing the needs of ELLs with communication disorders. The four areas just listed provide a coherent body of knowledge and skills for comprehensive cross-disciplinary personnel preparation. These topics can be addressed separately as a set of skills and competencies for specific groups or as courses and learning activities across professions.

Attitudes Toward Language Services. In discussing issues of cultural and linguistic diversity, the literature offers a caveat for all types of professionals serving diverse students: These professionals must examine their attitudes toward issues of diversity and be willing to transform any that create difficulties (Coleman & McCabe-Smith, 2000). This undertaking requires individuals to assess their own identities and recognize how these may influence students' learning opportunities (Baker, 1995; Banks, 1993; Hidalgo, 1993). Such analysis can lead to fundamental transformations in beliefs and practices (Cochran-Smith, 1995a, 1995b; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Valli, 1995).

Although research-based preparation programs encourages professionals to become aware of their own biases and to confront those biases in their professional practices, some individuals may consider these issues too challenging to address (Pate, 1992; Peterson & Barnes, 1996; Sleeter, 1993). Potential prejudices surround second language instruction (Edelsky, 1996; Krashen, 1999; Perea, 1997), and a variety of commonly held myths are associated with second language acquisition (Kayser, 1995; Krashen, 1996; Marshall, 2000). The following list offers examples of a few of the predominant prejudices and misconceptions:

* Language variations are deficiencies.

* Children learn two languages quickly and easily.

* The younger the child, the more skilled he or she will be in acquiring a second language.

* All children learn a second language in the same way or rate.

* Code-switching is evidence of a cognitive deficit (McLaughlin, 1992).

Although a thorough discussion of all of the myths and misconceptions is not possible here (see Note), eliminating these myths is essential to helping professionals understand the instructional process and the role of language in achievement. Holders of an instructional perspective believe that with appropriate opportunities, students of almost any age can acquire English or another language (V. Cook, 1995; Genesee & Nicoladis, 1995; Gutierrez-Clellen, 1998; McLaughlin, 1992). Guiterrez-Clellen (1999) conducted a comprehensive overview of the literature and made a compelling argument for a bilingual approach to therapy and instruction for ELLs with communication disorders. Research from a number of other sources also offers support for the concept of conducting interventions in the child's native language (Kayser, 1995; Kiernan & Swisher, 1990; Perozzi & Sanchez, 1992; Ovando & Collier, 1998).

Many well-meaning professionals focus on providing instruction and support services in English to the exclusion of the languages students bring to the learning process (Cheng, 1998; Edelsky, 1996; Perea, 1997). Although no one would argue against the importance of learning English, an overemphasis on it to the exclusion of other languages can limit, rather than promote students' opportunities to learn (Crawford, 1997; Pena & Valles, 1995) Such an emphasis can also be an indication of bias in recognizing students' strengths as well as their learning needs (Gutierrez-Clellen, 1999; Wong-Fillmore, 1991). From a critical sociocultural perspective, this attitude underscores the potential inequality in opportunities for and expectations of immigrants and mainstream learners. Portes and Rumbaut (1996) asserted:
   The attempt to compel immigrants to shed their language is contrasted with
   the efforts of many native-born middle-class youth to acquire a foreign
   tongue in universities and other institutions of higher learning. There is
   irony in the comparison between the hundreds of hours and thousands of
   dollars put into acquiring a halting command of a foreign language and the
   pressure on fluent foreign-born speakers to abandon its use. These
   contradictory goals--English monolingualism for the immigrant masses but
   bilingualism or multilingualism for domestic elites--shed light on the
   actual underpinnings of linguistic nativism. (p. 221)

Misunderstandings and prejudices work against the implementation of effective instruction (Porter, 1990). Although potentially disturbing, analysis of such attitudes and practices can provide important insights for addressing issues of equity as well as instruction. When addressed from a research-into-practice perspective, these insights can be used to unify professionals in establishing equitable practices.


Even more important than the professional commonalities are the differences that exist. When well understood, these differences can serve as strengths in uniting professionals and encouraging sharing across disciplines. Professionals such as bilingual teachers and SLPs frequently think they know and understand the roles and responsibilities of other specialists, but a closer examination of actual practices provides a different picture (Bacharach, Bamberger, & Mitchell, 1990; Blosser, 1990; Fradd, 1992; Montgomery, 1990).

Because professionals in different fields receive preparation based on differing paradigms and programs, they may not be aware of potential areas for collaboration. An important initial step in the process of integrating services is identifying areas of expertise. Recognition of specific areas of knowledge can be useful in initiating dialogues about effective ways to organize programs, provide instruction, and integrate services (Blosser & Kratcoski, 1997; Fradd, 1992; Sands, 1993). In order to meet these challenges, professionals must become informed about practices for ELLs in their own field of expertise and in other professional areas (Gopaul-McNicol & Thomas-Presswood, 1998). Each person needs to understand other professionals' areas of expertise and potential growth.

General Education Teachers. General education teachers, for example, provide valuable information about literacy instruction in the context of mainstream education. Classroom teachers are usually aware of the state standards and the statewide assessment procedures and willingly share strategies for promoting students' performance on high-stakes, norm, and criteria-referenced tests (Gerber, 1987; Wood, 1998). Because they have the opportunity to observe many students in multiple contexts on a day-to-day basis, classroom teachers are often aware of students' behavior and learning interests (Scarcella, 1990). Although general education teachers have viewed reading and writing as the foundation blocks of instruction, the new emphasis on literacy requires that they integrate reading instruction with oral language development, a skill they may not have acquired (Jimenez & Gersten, 1999; Snow et al., 1999; Snyder & Downey, 1997). Classroom teachers may lack an understanding of ESOL and special education (Au, 1993).

ESOL Teachers. Language development specialists, such as ESOL professionals, are responsible for teaching the target language through a variety of approaches and frequently are able to recognize students' linguistic strengths and limitations. Many ESOL teachers know how to integrate language development with content area instruction while reducing linguistic task demands and maintaining a focus on content (Fradd, 1992). ESOL teachers frequently are aware of differences in academic and social language proficiency that can influence students' participation in classroom activities (Cummins, 1984; Hakuta, 1986). Many of them are also familiar with the ESOL standards and curriculum frameworks (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 1997) but may lack knowledge of curricula and standards within the general education classroom context. ESOL educators often do not know about services provided in special education, and they may have greater preparation in oracy than in literacy (Au, 1993).

Bilingual Teachers. Language development specialists, such as bilingual professionals, are responsible for teaching students in some combination of their first and second languages and are frequently aware of students' strengths and limitations in their native languages as well as in English. They may also understand language acquisition within a broad framework that takes into account cross-cultural, home, school, and community variables (McGroarty, 1992). Bilingual teachers who are fluent in students' home languages are an important resource in integrating home and community support within an instructional plan (Faltis & Hudelson, 1998; Wang-Fillmore, 1991). They may be able to offer important insights about what students know and can do in their home languages. Bilingual teachers may lack preparation in moving from oracy to literacy (Edelsky, 1996) and may not be aware of the services provided in general or special education.

Special Education Teachers. Teachers and support personnel in special education provide appropriate instruction to learners with special learning needs. They are accountable for the design and delivery of a child's Individual Education Program (IEP) and are responsible for meeting state and federal guidelines regarding assessment and instruction (Wood, 1998). They often interact with general educators to provide students with instruction in the least restrictive environment. They are experienced at modifying instruction to facilitate content learning and at developing effective behavior management programs (Voltz & Elliot, 1990).

Although the spirit and letter of IDEA mandates a service delivery system that includes families as key decision makers (Bricker & Widerstrom, 1996), special education personnel may not understand the complexities of working with ELLs and their families (Bermudez & Padron, 1990; Ensle, 1992; Fields, 1993). They may require instructional assistance in integrating oral and written discourse, especially when the instruction involves using languages in addition to English (Gonzalez, Brusca-Vega, & Yawkey, 1997).

Speech-Language Pathologists. SLPs often play an important role in the assessment and determination of academic placement of ELLs with communication disorders. Frequently, it is their input that determines whether a student is diagnosed as demonstrating a language disability or language difference (Adler, 1991; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1998a; Battle, 1998; L. R. Campbell, 1996; Kayser, 1995; Langdon & Cheng, 1992; Roseberry-McKibben, 1995; O. Taylor, Payne, & Anderson, 1987; Van Keulen, Weddington, & DeBose, 1998).

Even when they lack preparation in the assessment and management of communication disorders with diverse students, SLPs are expected to identify and evaluate children with communication disorders and to plan and execute interventions based on their findings (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1998b; Coleman & Lieberman, 1995; J. Taylor, 1992). SLPs may lack an understanding of curriculum standards and their relevance for academic achievement. They may also require experience with classroom management or models of classroom-based intervention for ELLs with communicative disorders (Beck & Dennis, 1997; Coufal, 1993; Dohan & Schulz, 1998; Fradd, 1992). Within their expanding scope of practice, SLPs may not have the knowledge base to provide instruction along a continuum from oracy to literacy (Friel-Patti, 1999).


Educational reform initiatives have shaped policy regarding the instruction of ELLs. Advocates of inclusion through provision of instructional services in mainstream classrooms have created the expectation that ELLs and other students with special needs will be educated in the least restrictive environment (L. Cook & Friend, 1991). The Regular Education Initiative encourages educators to consider the general education classroom as the most appropriate instructional location and seeks to foster partnerships between general and special educators (Jenkins, Pious, & Jewell, 1990; Will, 1986).

In an effort to meet the unique needs of ELLs, the Educational Standards Board of ASHA (1985, 1989, 1995, 1998b) recommended a set of clinical competencies for SLPs. The establishment of these guidelines has created a basis from which to extend the professional knowledge base regarding educational services for ELLs with communication disorders. These initiatives provide both the impetus and framework for professional collaboration in working with ELLs within an optimal language-learning environment.

As the previous discussion suggests, each professional has the potential to make important contributions to the overall effectiveness of instructional programs for ELLs. Although each discipline brings strengths that can also be beneficial to professionals from the other disciplines, developing a cohesive cadre of professionals who share common goals and perspectives is by no means straightforward. One of the major obstacles to creating such a cadre is the high turnover rate of teachers, especially in urban centers and rural areas with high populations of diverse students (Abel & Stewart, 1999; Baca et al., 1990; Cooley & Yovanoff, 1996; Rosa-Lugo, Rivera, & McKeown, 1998; Stewart-Gonzales, 2000; Wald, 1996). Within this context, offering incentives and encouraging the motivation to grow professionally must be addressed.

Unfortunately, not everyone values collaboration or wants to learn or develop professionally (Behar & George, 1994). A study by Olsen (1997) of immigrants in the nation's public schools underscored this reality of troubling attitudes toward professional development. In her study of a high school referred to as "Madison," Olsen found that many teachers thought effective instruction for ELLs required no changes in the approaches or programs used with monolingual English-proficient students. Olsen explained this as follows:
   Despite a state-mandated district plan written to remedy the shortage of
   available teachers to serve LEP [Limited English Proficient] students, few
   of the new hires at Madison have training or preparation to serve LEP
   students. Most teachers do not believe they need any additional training in
   order to serve the new diversity at Madison High, and most either bristle
   at suggestions that changes in what they do as teachers might be necessary,
   or simply go about their lives as teachers without giving it a thought. (p.

In addition to a clear understanding of the expectations for meeting students' learning needs, professionals often need to comprehend why education reform is essential. Extrinsic motivation to learn and incentives for change--with time and opportunities for communicating--are also important ingredients, at least during the initial training-process stages (National Center for Education Statistics, 1997).

Numerous factors have been identified as essential for successful collaboration, including (a) shared common goals, (b) a belief that all members are equal participants and contributors, and (c) equal responsibility for the implementation of shared team decisions (Hudson & Fradd, 1990; Utley, 1992). Collaborators require comfortable environments where they can exchange information and develop common understandings, but such environments are not easily established or maintained without administrative incentives and support (Fradd, Barona, & Santos de Barona, 1989).

With regards to the development of collaborative structures, a variety of emerging professional development models have been described in the literature, including university-school partnerships (Clarke, Davis, Rhodes, & Baker, 1998; Darling-Hammond, 1996), teacher study groups (Clair, 1998; Francis, Hirsch, & Rowland, 1994) teacher networks and collaboratives (Lewis, 1997; Lieberman, 1995; Little, 1993), and action research (Check, 1997). The latter three models seek to provide professionals with sustained opportunities to explore, critique, and work on issues and challenges that have a direct impact on their lives and those of their students. By shaping their own professional development experiences, they can situate their work within the context of school reform. Although few of these models have been used to prepare personnel to effectively work with ELLs, even fewer have been implemented to prepare personnel to serve students with special needs who are in the process of learning English.

One essential factor to consider in adapting any available model is to determine how the model integrates preparation across professional areas. Among those researchers familiar with the current models, there is growing consensus that professional enhancement currently consists of short-term, skills-based approaches that tend to isolate professionals rather than promote meaningful interaction with colleagues (Goldenberg & Gallimore, 1991; Lieberman, 1995; Novick, 1996). As a result, many professionals are used to working and making decisions alone, with few links to or insights about the collaborative process (Janney, Snell, Beers, & Raynes, 1995). Successful development of cadres of professionals is closely allied with the establishment of favorable environments that promote collaboration and mutual support (Secord & Wiig, 1991).

In spite of the growing need for cadres of professionals, preparation has not kept up with demand (Miller, 1995). Many educators in both general and special education programs have little or no training relating specifically to the education of ELLs (Roseberry-McKibbin & Eicholtz, 1994), and many SLPs lack sufficient or appropriate academic preparation regarding cultural and linguistic differences of ELLs (L.R. Campbell et al., 1992; L. R. Campbell & Taylor, 1992; Kayser, 1995; Stockman, 1996). Despite significant strides in the preparation of bilingual SLPs and other personnel, more than 85% of teachers believe they are not prepared to assess or instruct ELLs (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999), and a large proportion of practicing SLPs are not comfortable providing services to ELLs because they lack the required knowledge and training (Goldstein, 2000). Even those SLPs who have benefitted from that kind of exposure are seeking more knowledge about how they can apply the information in their everyday interactions with ELLs (Coleman, 2000).

The four areas of personnel preparation discussed earlier provide an important beginning for creating the knowledge base required to serve ELLs with communication disorders. Content from these four areas also offer opportunities for training across various professional groups to develop the skills and understandings necessary to promote effective communication and high levels of literacy development. Figure 1 presents an overview of the potential contributions of and learning opportunities for each group of professionals based on these four areas.

FIGURE 1. Overview of cadre development in four areas of knowledge base development.
Area 1: The Process of Second-Language Acquisition

General education       Contributions
teachers                      * Insight into students' needs &
                                performance  on a daily basis
                              * Understanding literacy instruction
                                for typical learners

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Understanding second language &
                                literacy development
                              * Awareness of communication disorders
                                & language differences

ESOL teachers           Contributions
                              * Knowledge of second-language
                                acquisition  process
                              * Comparisons of students of same age,
                                culture, & language backgrounds

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of normal language
                                development  & relevant norms
                              * Awareness of influence of
                                communication disorders on language

Bilingual teachers      Contributions
                              * Knowledge of bilingualism &
                                second-language learning
                              * Recognition of importance of
                                language learning & literacy

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Understanding of communication
                                disorders  in language & literacy

Special education       Contributions
teachers                      * Experience in modifying instruction
                                to facilitate academic content

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Differentiation of language
                                differences & disabilities
                              * Influence of communication disorder
                                on second-language learning

Speech-language         Contributions
pathologists                  * Understanding of normal &
                                pathological language development

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Understanding of similarities &
                                differences in first & second
                                language acquisition
                              * Differentiation of language
                                differences & disabilities

Area 2: Skill in Academic & Social Language Assessment

General education       Contributions
teachers                      * Knowledge of standardized,
                                norm-referenced assessment
                              * Observation & collection of
                                meaningful data in regular contexts

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Understanding of language
                                proficiency testing
                              * Use formal & informal methods of
                                assessment/evaluation of ELLs

ESOL teachers           Contributions
                              * Awareness of differences in academic
                                & social language
                              * Knowledgeable of language
                                proficiency tests

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of assessment issues
                                within communication disorders
                              * Use formal & alternative methods of

Bilingual teachers      Contributions
                              * Awareness of academic & social
                                language proficiency assessment
                              * Use tests available in the student's
                                native language

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of assessment issues
                                within communication disorders
                              * Use formal & alternative methods of

Special education       Contributions
teachers                      * Knowledge of student's strengths &
                              * Knowledge of formal measures &
                                informal  assessment

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of the assessment of
                                diverse students with communication
                              * Knowledge of tests for assessing
                                language proficiency

Speech-language         Contributions
pathologists                  * Use of assessment to determine
                                communication disorder
                              * College of language information
                                from a variety of sources

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Use of alternative measures of
                                language, literacy & academic
                              * Use of interpreters & translators
                                in assessment

Area 3: Materials & Strategies for Literacy & Academic Learning

General education       Contributions
teachers                      * Knowledge of curricular frameworks &
                                content standards
                              * Knowledge of literacy development
                                for typical students

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of strategies to
                                facilitate equal access to
                              * Knowledge of comprehensible input

ESOL teachers           Contributions
                              * Knowledge of second-language
                                learning strategies in content-area
                              * Knowledge of ESOL standards &
                                curriculum frameworks

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Adaptation of curriculum for ELLs
                                with communication disorders
                              * Knowledge of special education
                                requirements in the instruction of

Bilingual teachers      Contributions
                              * Use of the native language and
                                culture in instruction
                              * Use of instructional strategies to
                                enhance literacy in native languages
                                & English

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of special education
                                requirements in the instruction of
                              * Adaptation of curriculum for ELLs
                                with communication disorders

Special education       Contributions
teachers                      * Knowledge of individualizing
                                instruction to facilitate academic
                              * Development of effective behavior
                                management programs

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Understanding of typical
                                second-language learning &
                              * Use of interpreters & translators in

Speech-language         Contributions
pathologists                  * Knowledge of intervention for
                                language-related learning problems
                              * Knowledgeable of methods to address
                                communicative disorders

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Use of interpreters & translators in
                              * Use of appropriate instructional
                                methods & strategies for ELLs

Area 4: Cross-Cultural Communication and Understanding

General education       Contributions
teachers                      * Knowledge of ELLs in mainstream

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of cultural differences in
                                language use
                              * Collaboration across instructional

ESOL teachers           Contributions
                              * Knowledge of ELLs in ESOL settings
                              * Parent and community involvement

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Collaboration across instructional

Bilingual teachers      Contributions
                              * Use knowledge of culture & language
                                in instruction
                              * Communication with family and
                                community members

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Recognize indicators of
                                communicative disorders & language
                              * Collaboration across instructional

Special education       Contributions
teachers                      * Knowledge of ELLs in special
                                education settings

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of methods for working
                                with diverse families
                              * Collaboration across instructional

Speech-language         Contributions
pathologists                  * Knowledge of ELLs in individual or
                                small-group settings

                        Learning Opportunities
                              * Knowledge of interactional styles of
                                diverse groups
                              * Collaboration across instructional
                                areas and disciplines


The diversity of the nation's school-age population is rapidly increasing and the challenge of ensuring that all students have access to appropriate opportunities for literacy and academic learning requires comprehensive educational reform and collaboration among professionals at all levels and across disciplines. Successful collaboration depends upon in the capacity of professionals to develop their own areas of expertise and their willingness to merge their skills in developing cadres to promote student achievement.

The challenge occurs in integrating the roles of the various professionals to build on their diverse and specialized expertise while integrating their perspectives concerning ELLs and their capacities to serve them (Graden & Bauer, 1992). Little is known about the preparation and functioning of cadres of professionals who effectively assess and instruct ELLs. Even less is known about meeting the needs of ELLs with communication disorders in the context of interdisciplinary service provision.

One of our purposes in writing this article was to call attention to the need for research that would form the knowledge base upon which professionals can draw to more effectively address students' learning needs. In spite of important recent developments in the field, as the special issue of the TESOL Quarterly underscored, the available research on preparing personnel to work with typical students is insufficient, and without an understanding of typical language learning and literacy development, it is difficult to differentiate disability from difference. As a result, professionals are dependent on their shared understandings of students' learning needs to make informed decisions and provide effective programs. A dual focused agenda is necessary to create this knowledge base. The first focus should be on (a) developing an expanded knowledge base concerning professionals' work with students that resulted in successful achievement and (b) determining how it can be effectively applied with culturally and linguistically diverse students. The second focus should be on determining the components professional cadres will need in order to provide appropriate assessment and instructional services to ELLs with communication disorders. As a part of this undertaking, the professional development structures and environments that encourage collaboration and promote the contributions and needs of professional groups must be identified. School districts, universities, and state departments of education that make such efforts are contributing to the process of identifying and preparing cadres with both specialized and comprehensive expertise needed to serve ELLs.

Although this article has suggested areas of exploration in both knowledge base development and personnel preparation, such endeavors themselves require cross-disciplinary collaboration. Research efforts by educational leaders to generate the knowledge basis upon which professionals can draw to more effectively address students' learning needs can also contribute to the growing body of knowledge concerning meeting the learning needs of ELLs and those who serve them. The current movement toward educational reform makes this the time to review previous accomplishments as we begin to break new ground in promoting effective learning opportunities for all students and those responsible for their education.


We would like to thank the professionals in the 10 central Florida school districts (Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia) for their thoughtful comments about the challenges in meeting the needs of ELLs with communicative disorders that led to this manuscript. We also thank Dr. Jeniffer Dutka, Dr. Kenyatta O. Rivers, and Elizabeth Rivera for their editorial comments.


The interested reader can find a more detailed discussion in Goldstein (2000), Kayser (1995, 1998), and McCaughlin (1992).


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Linda I. Rosa-Lugo, EdD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Central Florida. Among other areas, her research includes dialect usage and language development in second-language learners. Sandra H. Fradd, PhD, is a professor in the School of Education at the University of Miami, where is chair of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program. As part of a study conducted by the Center for Research on Excellence and Diversity in Education funded by the U.S. Department of Education, this TESOL program was selected as a national model teacher preparation program. Address: Linda I. Rosa-Lugo, Department of Communicative Disorders, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 200, Orlando, FL 32826; e-mail:
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Author:Rosa-Lugo, Linda I.; Fradd, Sandra H.
Publication:Communication Disorders Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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