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English Language Learners Who Struggle with Reading: Language Acquisition or Learning Disabilities?

Klingner, J. K., Artiles, A. J., & Méndez Barletta, L. (2006). English language learners who struggle with reading: Language acquisition or learning disabilities? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 108-128.

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This study reviews empirical research on English language learners (ELLs) who struggle with reading and who may have learning disabilities (LD), seeking to determine research indicators to help better differentiate between ELLs who struggle to acquire literacy because of their limited proficiency in English and ELLs who have actual LD. The authors conclude that more research is warranted to further elucidate the strengths and learning needs of subgroups of underachieving ELLs, to help determine who should qualify for special education, and to clarify why some ELLs who do not have LD still struggle with language and literacy acquisition. Future research should account for the complexities involved in becoming literate in another language and focus more on cultural and contextual factors that affect student achievement.