163. What are proven testing methods to determine if an ESL child has a learning disability versus problems caused by language barrier?

Great question! And if knew the answer I would be a sales representative for the company publishing such a test! I would make a lot of money!

What we do know is that a learning disability would show in BOTH languages, the primary or native language AND the second language.

Thus, while there is no test or proven testing method, there is a way to test the child in or through (h)is/er NATIVE or FIRST language. If the learning disability is found in the first language, then we truly have a disability. If there can be no testing through the first language --as required by law-- then any diagnosis of a learning disability would be incorrect.

Now, many non-English speaking students, most of them native Spanish-speaking students, are misdiagnosed as learning disable BECAUSE they are tested in English. English is a language with an incredible amount of sounds that non-English/Spanish speakers have never heard before and cannot hear easily because Spanish has a much simpler sound system with only approximately 20 basic sounds or phonemes.

Listening or speaking English is very difficult because the Spanish-speaking student simply does not hear nor can produce all English sounds and sound combinations in all word positions. English spelling patterns associated with English sounds are totally arbitrary (they follow old, traditional patterns of speaking no longer used) and follow no discernible pattern, especially in multi-syllabic words. Even in monosyllabic words, spelling patterns are totally arbitrary (the product of traditional spelling patterns for possibly ancient pronunciations no longer in use)-- Compare bear / (bare) / rear / tear (when crying) / tear / team / esteem/ mean / meant / learn / etc., etc.

Thus, learning English listening/speaking/reading/writing is difficult -- for ENGLISH ONLY speakers!!!! It is much more difficult for non-English speakers. TEACHING listening/speaking/reading/writing in English to non-English speaking students requires totally specialized techniques and strategies. Claiming --without using these specialized techniques and instructional strategies-- that the non-English-speaking student is "disable" because it cannot learn like an English-ONLY speaking student may be able to learn is blaming the victim for no crime at all!!!

Let's teach non-English speaking students DIFFERENTLY with the required modifications that ESL techniques requires.  Let's test non-English-speaking students DIFFERENTLY. Let's use their primary language in testing them. Then, possibly then, we will make the right diagnosis.



For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:


Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Certification (12/2006)

3113 Malcolm Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034-3406

Phone and Fax: (310) 474-5605

E-mail:  csssadek@gte.net