Spanish-Speaking Students Do Not Have to Wait to be Tested for Special Education Services
Tanya A. Alvarado
Early identification is critical in remediating a child’s disability. However, for students who are English Language Learners (“ELL”) or who receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (“ESOL”) services, it can take five years before the student is considered proficient in English. Public schools have numerous English language assessments to determine whether a student is in need of special education services. Many assessments are available in Spanish as well, so that ELL or ESOL students do not have to wait years to become sufficiently proficient before they are evaluated for special education services.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act-2004 (“IDEA”) requires public schools to select evaluative assessments that are not racially or culturally discriminatory, and which are administered in the child’s native language or mode of communication, unless it clearly is not feasible to do so. The evaluator should be knowledgeable in administering these assessments in Spanish and sufficiently familiar with cultural differences, even within the Latin American culture, to further reduce cultural bias. During the evaluation process, the school first determines the language in which your child is proficient, since administering an English-based assessment to a student who is not proficient in English will yield inaccurate results. If the student is proficient in the English language, the public school can then administer special education assessments in English. For students who are not sufficiently proficient in English, the public schools can administer assessments in Spanish.
Many Spanish language assessments have been developed to minimize racial or cultural bias and are designed to evaluate many aspects of your child’s functioning, including the student’s intellectual skills, the existence of a specific learning disability in reading, writing or math, a speech and language impairment, to determine if the child has ADHD, or evaluate the student’s social, behavioral, emotional needs. These assessments also include behavioral rating forms written in Spanish for Spanish-speaking parents which will further assist in yielding a comprehensive and accurate picture of the child’s needs.