The primary learner outcome is to be able to more effectively and efficiently differentiate learning differences from learning or behavior disorders. For educators of diverse learners, this has become a tremendous challenge over the years due to the fact that many normal and typical behaviors associated with various facets of cultural and linguistic diversity
are similar to behaviors typically exhibited by those who truly have a learning disability or behavior disorder. In the previous sections of this chapter, we have discussed behaviors often associated with:
1. acquisition of a second language (i.e., English)
2. culturally diverse values, norms, teachings, and expectations
3. learning and behavioral disabilities.
similarities among these behaviors can lead to misinterpretations between differences and disabilities. Diverse learners who exhibit behaviors or characteristics similar to that of disability do so for reasons that reflect external situations; that is, the process
of acquiring a second language or the need to adjust to a new cultural environment. However, most diverse learners who exhibit these behaviors do not exhibit them because of intrinsic conditions or disorders that interfere with their learning. These learners may require supplemental support to address the behaviors exhibited and may need extra time to adjust to new learning situations. However, this is in contrast to education for a learner with a disability, which emphasizes helping the student remediate or compensate for internal deficits, learning or emotional. Therefore, if the learner’s behaviors can be associated with his or her cultural values/norms or with stages of second language acquisition, and not with an internal problem or deficit then a learning or behavior disability is not evident.
Only if the particular learning or behavior needs can be linked to an intrinsic disorder can disability be appropriately considered. Problem-solving teams must make certain that diverse learners’ behaviors are a result of intrinsic needs and not a result of only bilingual or culturally diverse needs to appropriately place those learners in special education as learning disabled or behaviorally
disordered. Careful consideration of the behaviors exhibited by diverse learners relative to cultural diversity and second language acquisition will facilitate the reduction of misdiagnosing a learning difference as a disability.
In addition, in order for the appropriate diagnosis of a disability to occur, problem-solving teams must provide evidence of the identification of an intrinsic disorder reflecting cognitive and learning needs as discussed in this chapter. When considering all factors involved, educators will find that although behaviors and characteristics are similar, most diverse learners at-risk show evidence of needs related directly to cultural diversity and/or second language acquisition with no evidence of any intrinsic disorder. Chapter 4 will consider the assessment process used to identify whether the learning and behavior needs are most associated with diversity issues and/or disorders within the student.