ESL and Special Needs

<b> Forum for ESL/EFL teachers working with secondary school students </b>

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ESL and Special Needs

Post by snanook » Wed Jun 22, 2005 6:49 pm

Hi there. I am a newbie here and am looking for some suggestions. I am an Assistive Technology Facilitator in both elementary and secondary school settings. Basically, I go into a classroom and help a teacher come up with ideas on how to teach children with special needs. The ideas could be as simple as a different kind of pen or as complex as specialized computer software.

I have found that I have a large population of spanish speaking children. My question is this, do you address the language issue prior to seeking out specialized services such as mine? And once you determine that there is a deficit even in the native language, how should that be addressed then through an Individualized Education Program? I know that there are ways to test whether or not the delay in learning is caused by a language barrier or if there is truly a speech/hearing disorder. But I am finding myself having such a tough time determining what to suggest to help some of these children. If the speech/hearing disorder is not significant enough to warrant special education services, then it seems that they fallthrough the cracks.

I guess I have asked more than just one question here...sorry about that.

Any advice on adaptations that I can make in the classroom to aide these kids would be splendid.


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Post by Glenski » Fri Jun 24, 2005 11:59 pm

This sounds like a job that requires specialized training/education. Do you have this?

Tara B
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Post by Tara B » Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:13 pm


I can tell you that, yes, if there is a real problem then it will be reflected in the L1 as well as L2. You can get a feel for whether or not there is a problem through informal interviews with the child in the L1 and also from interviews with the parents.

I worked with a child, for example, with a very limited vocabulary in both languages and at age 12 had a sight vocabulary of about 25 words. When we interviewed the parents, we discovered that the mother had had complications during pregnancy and that the child had been hospitalized for seizures as an infant. Eventually the child qualified for special education services, but I was incensed! It had taken 6 years of education in this country before anyone had taken the trouble to talk to the parents.

An experienced ESL professional would be able tell you pretty easily whether the child is functioning about at the same level as thier peers, or if there seems to be some other problem. If there have been major gaps in the child's educational history, you should assume that that is the problem, rather than a disorder. Again, if you don't know the child's background, the only way to find out is to ask.

As far a strategies, it really depends on the child. I am not a special educator so I don't know much about writing IEP's. Most things that work for "regular" ESL kids would probably also be helpful for special needs kids, and vice versa. (Tne only exception I can think of is bilingual education, which I would not recommend for a child with special needs. Actually, let me qualify that; use of the native language support in instruction is helpful, but actually trying to develop literacy skills in two languages is too much for these kids--one is hard enough.)

From what I understand, the law says that if a child qualifies for both ESL and special education services, the school is required to provide both. So, I guess the next question is, what kind of support is your school already giving to its ESL kids, and does it seem to be working?

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