Welcome to the April 2012 issue of Plural Community, the free newsletter by your community, for your community.

This issue of Plural Community features an article focusing on the collaboration of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) professionals when working toward developing language and literacy skills for English learners with communication disorders.

Additionally, congratulations are extended to Jayne Carter, who was the winner of our competition for March 2012 and won a free copy of Language and Literacy Development: An Interdisciplinary Focus on English Learners with Communication Disorders.

Thanks to everyone who took the time and trouble to enter. We appreciate it, and wish you better luck next time. For details of this month’s competition, see below.

Lastly, please check out this month’s list of new publications.

Thanks for reading on…

Case Studies

The Power of Two: Developing Language and Literacy Skills for English Learners with Communication Disorders

Linda I. Rosa-Lugo, EdD, CCC-SLP, Florin M. Mihai, PhD, and Joyce W. Nutta, PhD, all of Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Central Florida, Orlando.


Martina is a kindergarten student (6 years and 5 months old) who was referred to me for an assessment due to poor academic performance. With a history of developmental delays and health challenges a bilingual assessment was requested to determine appropriate educational intervention or setting and to determine if she has a communication disability. Her home language is Russian.

Elizabeth is a seventh grade student (13 years and 5 months old) attending a regular class in a middle school. Having completed up to the sixth grade in the Dominican Republic, she struggles with her academic skills, specifically in the areas of language and literacy. Upon arriving to the US she repeated the sixth grade. Her difficulties in progressing academically are addressed with general education interventions (Response to Intervention Tiers one to three). She continues her academic struggles. A bilingual evaluation is requested to determine if she has a communication difference or a communication disability. Her primary language is Spanish.

Julian is a fourth grade student (10 years and 2 months old) who is experiencing academic difficulties. Specifically, his classroom teacher notes that he has challenges with oral reading and reading comprehension. Intensive interventions have been implemented; however, he continues to struggle. It is reported that Julian speaks both English and Spanish, and prefers to use English. He has been referred for a bilingual assessment to determine the reasons for his continued poor academic progress.

Students like Martina, Elizabeth, and Julian are often referred to the speech-language pathologist (SLP) for bilingual assessments to determine whether the challenges they are facing are due to their acquisition of a second language or a language disorder. One of the recurring dilemmas and most challenging tasks faced by school SLPs is distinguishing between second language acquisition and language disorders in English learners (ELs) with academic deficits (Kohnert, 2008; McKibbin, 2007). Additionally, once ELs are identified as having a communication disorder, what can the SLP do to ensure that those ELs develop effective language and literacy skills?

Roles and Responsibilities of SLPs and ESOL Professionals

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA, 2010) issued a professional issue statement detailing the roles and responsibilities of school-based SLPs. Specifically the paper recommended that the SLP should work collaboratively with other school professionals when working with ELs. Given the complexity of language and its development, it is most probable that the SLP will struggle to determine whether Martina, Elizabeth and Julian have a language disorder or are experiencing difficulties that are normal for ELs. Therefore, it is critical that speech-language pathologists work together with the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) professional to consider the language and literacy performance of the three students. At the assessment stage, the SLP-ESOL team must consider second language (L2) normal processes (i.e., the “silent period,” the gap between social and academic English, and code-switching) and determine if the EL is demonstrating behaviors that are characteristic of the normal processes of L2 acquisition. Additionally, the EL’s performance needs to be compared to the performance of other children who come from a similar cultural, linguistic, and economic background. In diagnosing ELs, extensive information about their home, school, and community needs to be examined alongside test data (Klingner, Hoover, & Baca, 2008; Ortiz & Yates, 2002).

Once an EL is identified as having a communication disorder, each member of the team has different roles. Therefore, it is important to clarify what it is expected from SLPs and ESOL professionals when working with ELs with communication disorders. SLPs providing services to school-age ELs with communication disorders should be familiar with federal laws, state requirements, and school district policy. In addition they should know first and second language acquisition, culturally appropriate assessment methods, and evidence-based intervention techniques, as well as strategies for working with families and other professionals. The specialized competencies and the required education necessary to deliver ESOL instruction to ELs should not be assumed to be possessed by all SLPs. ESOL instruction requires extensive knowledge and experience in areas such as L2 acquisition, linguistics, language teaching methodologies, assessment, and so forth. These areas may or may not be covered in SLPs’ preparation programs. Therefore, SLPs without ESOL training should not provide direct ESOL instruction to ELs. Instead, SLPs should collaborate and consult with ESOL professionals.

ESOL professionals, who are the providers of direct instruction to ELs with communication disorders, work with SLPs to: (a) plan culturally responsive instruction, (b) use appropriate accommodations and modifications, and (c) implement evidence-based strategies and techniques to make instruction comprehensible for ELs with communication disorders while promoting academic language development (Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2009; Collier, 2004, 2011). In addition to addressing the language needs of their students, ESOL professionals have other roles. They are not simply teaching language; they are also assisting their students with the sometimes difficult transition to a new culture and set of expectations. ESOL professionals develop the language proficiency of their ELs with communication disorders and promote academic achievement, social growth and acceptance, and self-confidence and self-worth.

When SLPs and ESOL professionals collaborate, they become aware of not only their own roles but also the roles of their partners. For example, a result of this increased awareness of each other’s roles in the language and literacy development of ELs with communication disorders is that SLPs become more aware of the literacy curriculum goals and classroom expectations. On the other hand, ESOL professionals become more aware of the challenges faced by ELs with communication disorders and how such challenges affect their classroom performance. Moreover, SLPs provide techniques that can facilitate language and literacy development. By building on these techniques, ESOL professionals can provide additional support for this development through provision of modified instruction and feedback. The collaborative power of the SLP and the ESOL professional ensures continuity in practice and across settings, with the goal of ensuring that ELs with communication disorders succeed in the classroom.


Language and literacy development provides the perfect venue for collaboration between SLPs and ESOL professionals. Language is the foundation of literacy and plays a very important role in the academic achievement of ELs, with or without communication disorders. In order for ELs with communication disorders to be successful in school, it is imperative that SLPs and ESOL professionals collaborate fully in developing language and literacy skills in ELs with communication disorders (ASHA, 2010). Their partnership will ensure that ELs with communication disorders are appropriately identified and that evidence-based interventions are provided for the purpose of decreasing the “at-risk for literacy development” likelihood for these students.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2010). Roles and responsibilities of speech language pathologists in schools [Professional issues statement]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.

Cloud, N., Genesee, F., & Hamayan, E. (2009). Literacy instruction for English language learners. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Collier, C. (2004). Separating difference from disability (3rd ed.). Ferndale, WA: Crosscultural Developmental Education Services.

Collier, C. (2011). Seven steps to separating difference from disability. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Klingner, J., Hoover, J. J., & Baca, L., (2008). (Eds.). Why do English language learners struggle with reading? Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Kohnert, K. (2008). Language disorders in bilingual children and adults. San Diego, CA: Plural.

McKibbin, C. (2007). Language disorders in children: A multicultural and case approach. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Ortiz, A., & Yates, J. R. (2002). Considerations in the assessment of English language learners referred to special education. In A. J. Artiles & A. Ortiz (Eds.), English language learners with special education needs (pp. 65–85). McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems.

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April 2012-May 2012

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Voice Foundation Annual Symposium
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Competition time! This month, we are offering a copy of the newly launched Clinical Management of
Swallowing Disorders, Third Edition
. To enter, all you have to do is email your name and address to pluralcommunity, placing “April 2012 Competition” in the subject line. The drawing will take place on or around April 20, 2012, and the winner will be announced in the May 2012 issue of Plural Community.

Congratulations again to Jayne Carter from Acton, MA, who was the winner of our monthly
competition for March and won a free copy of, appropriately, Language and Literacy
Development: An Interdisciplinary Focus on English Learners with Communication Disorders
Linda I. Rosa-Lugo, Florin M. Mihai, and Joyce W. Nutta. A copy is on its way to her, with our good wishes.

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