Date of Award


Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Rebecca Stephenson

Second Advisor

Karen Huchting

Third Advisor

Gina Chavez


This study explored the perspectives of speech language pathologists and school psychologists, to identify the systemic challenges they identified that negatively impact how emerging bilingual students are referred, assessed, and identified for special education. This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with 6 speech language pathologists and 6 school psychologists (n=12) to explore these challenges and barriers, as well as to look at the systems of belief present on campuses, that impact this process. Using a systems thinking framework and detailed inductive analysis of the data many themes emerged related to barriers such as difficulty finding an interpreter and ensuring that interpreter was reliable in their translations, limited access to bilingual resources, and inconsistent and unclear referral systems. Moreover, participants reported that many biases related to race and culture were present on their campuses and impacted how emerging bilingual students were referred for assessment. This study’s findings indicate a need for changes to be made at the federal, state, district, and school levels to address the various challenges present and to improve the overall system.