Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Kyo Yamashiro

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Thomas Luschei

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Eligio Martinez

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2023 Jennifer L Tucker Mottes


High school, Latinx, Learning disabilities, Social emotional learning, Special education

Subject Categories



Social, emotional, and academic skills are essential to success in school, the workplace, our homes, and our communities, allowing individuals to contribute successfully and meaningfully to our society (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Jones & Kahn, 2017). The labor market acknowledges the importance of these skills as well, actively seeking employees who have the necessary skills to manage their emotions, collaborate with peers, and persist through challenges (Jones & Kahn, 2017). Researchers have established a link between the implementation of social emotional learning programs in schools and positive social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes for those students as adults (Durlak et al., 2011). Students with specific learning disabilities have unique learning needs that can be supported through social, emotional, and specialized academic instruction (Elias, 2004). Research indicates social and emotional well-being, success in school, and career readiness for students with learning disabilities relies on teaching, practicing, and supporting the development of social emotional learning skills (Horowitz, Rawe, & Whittaker, 2017). Unfortunately, less than 20% of social emotional learning curriculum and programs consider the experiences of special education students when evaluating the effectiveness of their instruction. (Berg, Osher, Same, Nolan, Benson, & Jacobs, 2017). Latinx students also present with their own unique needs specifically related to their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, influences, and interests. Meeting these challenges requires well-developed social emotional learning skills in addition to academic instruction. Educational research supports the need for culturally relevant SEL instruction by citing a significant discrepancy nationwide between the four-year high school graduation rate of 58% for Latinx students in general as compared to the graduation rate of 81% for Latinx students who participated in a specific SEL program at their high school (Johnson, Simon, & Mun, 2014). The intersection of culture and ability for Latinx students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) allows researchers to focus specifically on the unique cultural and linguistic needs of Latinx students combined with the unique learning challenges faced by students with SLD. Unfortunately, there is a gap in the literature for this group of students, specifically at the high school level, and how SEL curriculum and instruction can support their unique social, emotional, and academic needs. This study is important for several reasons. First, the high concentration of Latinx students in the Los Angeles area makes this an important subgroup of students to pay attention to when evaluating if our instructional programs and supports are having a positive impact on our students’ academic, social, and emotional growth. Second, the literature has documented the significant academic, social, and emotional challenges that both Latinx students and students with disabilities face both in school and in adulthood, however there is a gap in the literature for understanding the unique experiences of Latinx students with disabilities. Examining the intersection between race and ability and focusing specifically on Latinx high school students with specific learning disabilities will help fill this critical gap in the literature. Finally, the role SEL competencies play in giving students the skills they need to overcome adversity is a protective factor that we can provide for our Latinx high school students with specific learning disabilities if we can be sure that they are benefitting from the instruction we are providing. For this project, I used a case study approach to gather examples of how Latinx high school students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) are receiving social emotional support and instruction at one public high school and one nonpublic high school in Southern California. I conducted interviews, observed in classrooms, and reviewed school documents from both schools to identify examples of how Latinx high school students are developing and using their SEL skills. The information gathered from these sources were coded and analyzed to find patterns, themes, conclusions, and recommendations for future research. My results show that these two schools, the classroom teachers, the community partners, and the families who participated have significant concerns for the social and emotional well-being of their students and are utilizing many strategies to help support them. My results also show that the parents and students who participated are positively experiencing and benefitting from that support. These results have implications for policymakers and practitioners as we continue the quest to understand how Latinx students with specific learning disabilities experience social emotional support in the high school setting.



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