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Multilingual Learners Identified or Suspected of Having Educational Disabilities


This webpage is designed to provide guidelines and resources for professionals and families supporting Multilingual Learners (MLs) who are also identified with or suspected of having educational disabilities, also known as Dually Identified students.

The appropriate referral, identification, and placement of learners who are Culturally and/or Linguistically Diverse (CLD) is necessary to ensure students' civil rights as well as a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) aligned with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Resources, opportunities for training, workshops, and links to other sources of information on this topic are available below.

NOTE:  The Colorado Department of Education now uses the term Multilingual Learner (ML) to describe all students in Kindergarten through 12th grade who have been formally identified as English Learners using Colorado’s Standardized Identification Process and who are currently receiving English language development instruction.  Please refer to the Dear Colleague Letter from the CDE’s Office of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education for more information on the use of this inclusive term.

Training Opportunities

Advancing Equity in Special Education Identification Webinar Series

Throughout the 4-part series, we cover foundational strategies to support equitable special education evaluation practices. These topics are crucial for ensuring thorough evaluations, appropriate education identification, addressing cultural and linguistic considerations, utilizing alternative assessment methods, and effectively communicating assessment findings.

A certificate for 1.0 CDE training hours can be obtained for each webinar following completion of a brief evaluation and quiz. 

View the series recordings

New Technical Assistance Documents

Multilingual Learner Processing Guide

This Multilingual Learner Processing Guide was developed for Education Teams to use when considering a referral for Special Education evaluation of Multilingual Learners. In all Problem-Solving discussions regarding Multilingual Learners, an educator knowledgeable in English language acquisition and acculturation should be notified of educational concerns and recruited for consultation. Keep in mind that per federal law, this tool should never be used to delay an evaluation when the team suspects the presence of a disability that may necessitate the provision of specially designed instruction. This tool can be used as part of a comprehensive evaluation to help determine eligibility as well as services, supports, and goals for Multilingual Learners.

Multilingual Learner Family Interview Questions

School teams should engage families meaningfully as partners in the problem-solving and special education processes.  The following interview questions are meant to be used as a resource when the multidisciplinary team needs information related to a student’s cultural background, academic profile, prior experiences, etc., in addition to that of the Home Language Survey/Home Language Questionnaire results.

Students who are Newcomers: Considerations for Special Education

Newcomers are entitled to school enrollment and equal access to educational programming. This Fact Sheet clarifies the special education process as it relates to Newcomers who are Multilingual Learners identified with or suspected of having disabilities. 

Administrative Units must evaluate students who are Newcomers without delay if they are suspected of having disabilities. This evaluation must be non-discriminatory. 

ML Enrollment Scenarios Flowchart

It is the Administrative Unit's responsibility under Child Find to locate and identify all students with disabilities including Multilingual Learners (MLs) with disabilities.   School teams must not identify MLs with disabilities when linguistic and cultural differences or lack of instruction in literacy and math are the determinative causes for their difficulties in school.  When parents or staff members report concerns about a student's academic, social-emotional, functional, or behavioral concerns, IEP teams including educators who are knowledgeable in language acquisition and acculturation should work to investigate these concerns before the special education evaluation referral.

online learning 2023-2024 Multilingual Learners with Educational Disabilities Webinar Series

On-Demand Trainings

Indigenous Students with Exceptionalities

This is a four-part course comprised of an Introduction and three Modules.  This work is the result of the collaborative efforts of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes, Fort Lewis College, and the Colorado Department of Education.  It is an open-source format designed to be accessible to anyone interested in learning more about best practices for providing culturally and linguistically relevant and sustaining education to the Native American learners, families, and Tribal communities with whom we work.  There is a note catcher that corresponds to each course component for you to capture your learning.  Additionally, you will find support documents and websites to further your learning. You may take this course at your own pace.  If you choose to take the quizzes at the end of each course component, you will be eligible for up to 4 hours of recertification credit.  Thank you for your interest in this project.

 Speech-Language Interventions for Multilingual Learners

This Speech Language Interventions for Multilingual Learners course was created by Dr. Sandy Frey and designed to provide you with a general overview of best practices for approaching family engagement, and intervention for multilingual students with speech-language disorders.  The course consists of 4 videos and 1 quiz.  Upon successful completion of the course, you will be eligible to receive a certificate of completion from the CDE which will grant you 1 hour of recertification credit.

Federal and State Language Access Requirements 


IDEA requires that the school take whatever action is necessary to ensure that a parent/guardian with LEP is able to understand and meaningfully participate in their child’s IEP meeting, which includes providing an interpreter at no cost to the parent/guardian for any IEP meetings. 34 C.F.R. § 300.322(e). In addition, the school must ensure that a parent with LEP understands the content of certain notices, which includes providing the following documents in the parent’s native language unless it is clearly not feasible to do so:

  • Prior Written Notices (PWN): The prior written notice provided to parents that proposes to initiate a change or reject a requested change in the identification, evaluation, or placement of a child with disabilities. 34 C.F.R. § 300.503(c).
  • Procedural Safeguards are delivered annually under the IDEA. 34 C.F.R. § 300.504(d).
  • Consent to an evaluation 34 C.F.R. § 300.9(a).

Colorado House Bill 23 1263

Colorado House Bill 23 1263 requires that IEP teams verbally inform a Multilingual Learner’s family of their right to a written translation or an oral translation of the final IEP into the dominant language used in the home, upon request, and at no cost.  See the CDE’s Fact Sheets on this legislation below:

CDE Offices

Other Resources

Colorado English Language Proficiency (CELP) Standards

English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards are required by Colorado state and federal law.  On December 10, 2009, the Colorado State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the English Language Development (ELD) standards developed by WIDA as the Colorado English Language Proficiency (CELP) Standards.

The CELP standards should be used, in conjunction with Colorado’s Academic Standards, to plan instruction that supports Multilingual Learners as they engage in academic content. 

To learn more about language development and the CELP Standards, refer to, the CELP Standards Resource Library.

For Multilingual Learners receiving instruction in Spanish and English, WIDA has created Marco DALE (Marco de los estándares del desarrollo auténtico del lenguaje español de WIDA) to support bilingual instruction and education. 

Resources from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Resources from Colorin Colorado

Stay Up to Date  -  Manténgase Informada/o

Sign up for the Multilingual Learners with Disabilities listserv.  To request to be added to the MLDB Listserv email Krista Berkey.

Regístrese en el servidor de listas de estudiantes multilingües con discapacidades.  Para pedir que lo/la registremos en el servidor de listas MLDB envíele un correo electrónico de Krista Berkey.

Click here to UNSUBSCRIBE from the MLDB Listserv

Listserv Disclaimer:

A variety of learning opportunities, information, and resources are provided on this listserv. These materials do not represent an exhaustive list, nor are they required or endorsed by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). The identification or description is for the purpose of providing information and resources and does not constitute CDE's endorsement. Every effort has been made to identify the citation for the resource; please maintain the citation and/or authorship when adapting or modifying these materials

For more information, please contact:

Hunter Smith
Multilingual Learners with Educational Disabilities Specialist
Phone (720) 202-2523
Email Hunter Smith (

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