The Multifaceted Relationship Between ESL, Special Education, L2 Reading Disability Potential Risk Factors and Neuroscience


Purpose: To analyze and integrate current research connecting neuroscience imaging, K-12 second language acquisition, special education, and risk factors for a L2 reading disability, with the goal to identify potential new educational strategies. Introduction: An extensive literature exists addressing second language acquisition, special education, and risk factors for a L2 reading disability. However, literature for each domain has primarily developed independently of the other disciplines. My Review integrates these areas, the goal being to develop enhanced understanding of their multifaceted connections. Integrative modeling potentially serves to advance educational systems, including in Massachusetts, to support English learners. Methods: The two research phases represent literature searches utilizing Lesley University’s library. Phase 1 focused on second language acquisition and neuroscience. JSTOR, PubMed, Academic Search Premier, and neuroscience journals identified publications between 2009-2017. Phase 2 integrated K-12 second language acquisition, special education, risk factors for English reading disability, and neuroscience. Of the 100 articles initially identified between 2005-2018, 34 directly relevant to my research, were selected. Results: Neuroscience research into typical and atypical L2 development was supported through several studies. Archila-Suerte et al., (Brain Lang, 2015) and Meng et al., (Bilin-Lang Cogn, 2016) showed that specific brain structures were involved. L2 reading disabilities and language difference vs. learning disability were researched. The Language Minority Assessment Project, Serpa, (LDLD project, 2005), described six domains for educators’ knowledge. Sullivan (Exceptional Children, 2011) concluded that English learners were disproportionately represented in special education. Educational strategies were collectively discussed by Rivera et al., (Center on Instruction, 2009) and Orosco and Klingner (J Learn Disabil-US, 2010), Conclusion: Neuroscience imaging enables viewing involved L2 brain structures. Educators can utilize the research to understand English reading disability risk factors in English learners and the L2 process. This research could lead to enhanced support in meeting English learners’ needs in the future.

Author Information
Carolyn Peterson, Newton Public Schools, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ECLL2021
Stream: Disabilities and the language learner

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon