Improving Systems, Practices, and Outcomes

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Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

When assessing young children for early intervention or special education services, practitioners need to be sensitive to the cultural and linguistic variations that exist in our society. Appropriate procedures need to be in place to determine which language will be used to conduct assessments and to ensure that appropriate assessment/screening tools are being used. It is critical to obtain a non-biased picture of the child's abilities, in order to determine whether certain patterns of development and behavior are caused by a disability or are simply the result of cultural and linguistic differences. Resources are presented here to help address these issues.

Selected Resources

Supporting Children with Disabilities Who Are Also Dual Language Learners (2019)

This hour-long videom from Head Start ECLKC encourages you to discover myths and facts about and ways to support children with disabilities who are also dual language learners (DLLs). Listen as presenters share high-quality screening practices to determine if a child who is a DLL needs further evaluation. Explore teaching practices for promoting engagement once a child has been identified as having a disability.

Tools and Resources for Identifying All English Learners (2015)

This toolbox was developed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) to help state and local education agencies in meeting their obligations to English Learners (ELs), including preschool-age children. It should be used in conjunction with joint guidance from Ed's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reminding states, school districts and schools of their legal obligations to English learners under civil rights laws and other federal requirements. The guidance includes information on evaluating English learners for special education services.

Development of Infants and Toddlers Who Are Dual Language Learners (2014)

This paper identifies areas of research knowledge and gaps in the understanding of the development of infants and toddlers who are dual language learners.

Dual Language Learners: Research Informing Policy, Castro, D. C., García, E. E., & Markos, A. M. (2013) by The Center for Early Care and Education Research: Dual Language Learners (CECER-DLL).

The Center for Early Care and Education Research: Dual Languaage Learners is a federally funded project to advance the research field to improve assessment, child care, and education for dual language learners (DLLs) from birth through five years of age. Their research brief describes issues and policy implications in developing early childhood programs, policies and practices, including language, learning, literarcy development, and early and accurate identification and assessment.

Dual Language Learners with Disabilities: Supporting Young Children in the Classroom (2012)

This module from IRIS Center offers an overview of young children who are dual language learners. Further, it highlights the importance of maintaining children and families' home language at the same time they are learning a new or second language, discusses considerations for screening and assessing these children, and identifies strategies for supporting them in inclusive preschool classrooms.

Examining the Use of Language and Literacy Assessments with Young Dual Language Learners, Bandel, E., Atkins-Burnett, S., Castro, D. C., Wulsin, C. S., & Putman, M. (2012)

This study examined the procedures used to assess children in large-scale government-funded studies that included Dual-Language Learners (DLLs) and in smaller studies that examined the development of language and literacy among DLLs in the United States and Canada. Three research questions guided our analysis of the procedures used to assign children to assessments. The discussion of findings related to procedures is organized according to these questions:

  • What is the prevalence of different methods for assigning assessments in different languages?
  • Does the procedure for determining language of assessment vary by study purpose or sample characteristics such as children’s age?
  • Are results similar when different methods are used to assign children's language of assessment?

Developmental Assessment of Young Dual Language Learners with a Focus on Kindergarten Entry Assessment: Implications for State Policies, Espinosa, L. M., & García, E. (2012).

In order to accurately assess young Dual-Language Learners (DLLs), one must consider the unique aspects of linguistic and cogni-­tive development associated with growing up with two languages as well as the social and cultural contexts that influence overall development. Given the large and increasing size of the young DLL assessment practices, continued efforts towards improvement are critical. Potentially, the design and use of Kinderarten Entry Assessments (KEAs) is one way to improve the assessments used with DLLs. Close attention to the policies and practices surrounding the development and use of KEAs across states is necessary if KEAs are to be successful in identifying service gaps in Early Childhood Education systems and improving the Pre-K to 3rd grade instruction for DLLs.

Find More Resources

To find literature related to the early identification of culturally and linguistically diverse young children with disabilities, try searching the professional literature using keywords, a phrase, or a combination of some of the search descriptors listed below.

  • "Early Identification"
  • Disabilities"
  • "Disability Identification"
  • "Cultural Influences"
  • "Cultural Awareness"
  • "Minority Groups"
  • "English (Second Language)"
  • "Disproportionate Representation"
  • Evaluation
  • Assessment
  • "Early Childhood Education"
  • "Preschool Education"
  • "Early Intervention"
  • "Young Children"