October, 2021
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Jimalee Sowell, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA
Solange Lopes Murphy, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey, USA

Jimalee Sowell

Solange Lopes Murphy

Hola and Hello!

We are delighted to share our fifth issue of Difference and Disability Matters, the newsletter for the Supporting Students with Disabilities Interest Section.

In the last year, many of us have experienced numerous and often dramatic shifts in our professional and personal circumstances. While in recent months many schools have opened their doors for face-to-face instruction, some are still operating on hybrid models, and in some locations, instruction might still be carried out in an online mode only; for some, formal instruction might remain halted. Whatever the mode of delivery of instruction, for many educators and learners, the current situation still presents many challenges and constraints. In spite of the difficulties, however, the pandemic situation has directed many of us towards innovation and resourcefulness in meeting the needs of our learners. For many of us, arriving at these spaces might have entailed some struggle. We have realized that we need to think differently about how we approach and execute instruction. Part of that change might have directed us to reflect in an intensive and concentrated manner on our beliefs about our practices and our actual practices. While we might have a good understanding of current theories and the body of research supporting them, do we implement them in our pedagogy? While we might talk about student-agency and providing our students opportunities to teach us how they learn, do we actually provide our learners the opportunity to direct us toward the best ways to help them based on what they know about their own learning? Most of us would agree to the potentially damaging effects of labels, but do we truly move into a mindset where we see our learners as they are and not as the labels they have been given—whether those labels relate to a diagnosis or other ways that we might categorize, such as labels pertaining to race or nationality, ability, or disability? The articles in the current issue probe us to think deeply about the connections between beliefs and practices, the ways we might categorize and label through a normative lens, and the extent to which research on assessing multilingual learners for disabilities has informed and guided instructional practices in real classroom contexts.

The first article focuses on research that shows how English language teachers align and, in some cases, fail to align their teaching practices with the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This article contributes to the body of literature on the infusion of the UDL framework in classroom practices and offers recommendations on ways to increase students’ opportunities to learn. We are also pleased to share an interview with Maya Rejepova, an English language instructor in Turkmenistan. Maya shares with us experiences of working with visually-impaired students in her English language classes. Her story demonstrates how we can better assist our learners by providing them opportunities to voice their learning strategies and best practices. This piece also unveils the need for increased professional training on how to work with multilingual learners who are visually impaired. In the third article, Andy Curtis, 50th president of the TESOL International Association, talks about intersections of his life and labels. Through Curtis’s narrative, we are encouraged to see ourselves through a lens that might be called “different” and to examine the ways in which we compartmentalize and use labels.

This issue also includes announcements of upcoming events and resources. If you are interested in submitting an article, a book review, or a nomination for an interview with someone who would like to share their story of learning or teaching or both, we encourage you to also look at our call for proposals. We would love to hear from you. We strive to be an inclusive outlet, and as such, welcome contributions from native and nonnative English speakers alike, as well as submissions in a variety of media in addition to writing.

Abraços e tenham um ótimo semestre,

Jimalee and Solange

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The Difference and Disability Matters Newsletteris calling for articles on supporting students with disabilities, with a special focus on inclusion of multilingual families in the special education evaluation process. For information on how you can contribute, refer to our call for submissions. Please send articles to Solange Lopes Murphy and Jimalee Sowell, Difference and Disability Matters co-editors

Webinar: Beyond Compliance–Elevating the Voice of Immigrant Families is the Special Education Process
Date/Time: Saturday, November 6, 2021 11:00 a.m. EST
Presenter: Milena Varbanova

SSDIS Virtual Coffee Hour
Date/Time: Saturday, November 20, 2021. 3 p.m. EST (UTC -5)

Webinar: Peers in Inclusive English as an Additional Language Classrooms for Students with Special Needs in Social Communication
Date/Time: Saturday, December 4, 2021. 11:00 a.m. WIB (Jakarta) (UTC +7). [11:00 Hanoi, 11:00 Bangkok, 12:00 Kuala Lumpur, 12:00 Manila, 13:00 Seoul, 13:00 Tokyo]
Presenter: Afifah Muharikah