Moving Through the Pipeline: Ethnic and Linguistic Disparities in Special Education from Birth Through Age Five

Lauren M. Cycyk, Stephanie De Anda, Katrina L. Ramsey, Bruce S. Sheppard, Katharine Zuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study examined Oregon’s early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSE) pipelines as a function of children’s intersecting ethnicity and home language(s) with a focus on children from Latino/a backgrounds with communication disorders. We found differences in children’s referral source and age of referral, likelihood of evaluation and placement, and type of placement for conditions related to communication, including autism spectrum disorder and hearing impairment. Results showed differences in EI and ECSE; however, disproportionality appeared greatest among Spanish-speaking Latino/a children and non-Latino/a children who spoke languages other than English compared to non-Latino/a English-speaking counterparts. Our findings suggest that attending to children’s intersecting ethnicity and language backgrounds in referral, evaluation, and placement add nuance to examinations of disproportionality. Results also indicate that practices related to characterizing children’s communication disorders likely make substantial contributions to inequities in EI and ECSE. Precise identification of differences in service provision can lead to targeted policy and practice solutions to reduce structural barriers to care in EI/ECSE systems and improve equity, particularly as related to placement for children of color with communication concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEducational Researcher
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • bilingual/bicultural
  • disparities
  • early childhood
  • equity
  • Latino/a, or see Hispanic
  • regression analyses
  • secondary data analysis
  • special education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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