Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Psychology (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Samuel O Ortiz

Second Advisor

Marlene Sotelo-Dynega

Third Advisor

Jennifer Mascolo


English Learners (ELs) in the U.S. have historically been misidentified as having a Speech Language Impairment (SLI). School psychologists and speech language pathologists must determine whether ELs present with language differences that are due to normal patterns of language acquisition or language impairment. Not only is the process complicated by the presence of two or more languages rather than just one, it often involves the use of standardized tests that do not control adequately for the differences in developmental language proficiency. Based on the results of this study, it was found that using tests that are developed with language exposure norms (e.g., the Ortiz PVAT) seem to produce scores that are substantially higher when used with ELs as compared to the scores that are derived from traditional tests using non-exposure norms. This study focused on an analysis and comparison between traditional measures of verbal ability (e.g., WISC-V Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI)), other language assessments (e.g., CELF-5 and PLS-5) and the Ortiz PVAT scores. It was found that both verbal ability VCI and language scores were consistently over one standard deviation lower than the Ortiz PVAT scores. Furthermore, when ELs were tested with the Ortiz PVAT their mean values were consistently within the average range. This suggests that current methods may be misidentifying English Learners as having a Speech Language Impairment where none exists, which negatively affects eligibility and intervention decisions and, ultimately, their academic trajectory. Overall, the results indicate that the Ortiz PVAT provides an alternative to current evaluation instruments because it targets receptive vocabulary while controlling for language exposure in ELs. This alternative method allows practitioners to use the Ortiz PVAT to assess English Learners in a manner that assists in determining if their performance is reflective of typical language acquisition or if it is suggestive of a language disorder.