Teaching English to students with Down’s syndrome – part 2.
Last month, I brought the factors that are typical of many children with Down’s syndrome which facilitate and inhibit learing. In this context, it is important that we advance the discussion regarging second language learning.
It is known by educators that children with Down’s syndrome typically have a speech and language impairment. According to the Down’s Syndrome Association and Down’s Syndrome Scotland, it is the combination of a smaller mouth cavity and weaker mouth and tongue muscles that makes it harder for them to physically form words.
The longer the sentence, the greater the articulation problems. Therefore, children often receive fewer opportunities to engage in language and conversation. Adults tend to ask yes/no questions or finish a sentence off for the child not giving them much time to do it themselves. As a result, the child gets less language experience hindering the learning of new words and sentence structures, and also diminishing opportunities to improve their clarity of speech.
By reading the material published by the Down’s Syndrome Association and Down’s Syndrome Scotland, I identified some strategies which may help people in Down’s syndrome in the language classroom:
– Give child time to process language and respond.
– Listen carefully: your ear will adjust.
– Ensure face-to-face and direct eye contact.
– Use simple and familiar language and short concise sentences.
– Check understanding: ask child to repeat back instructions.
– Reinforce speech with facial expression, gesture and sign.
– Teach reading and use the printed word to reinforce language.
– Reinforce new language and spoken instructions with print, pictures, diagrams, symbols and concrete materials.
– Emphasise key words, reinforcing visually.
– Teach grammar through print: flash cards, games, pictures of prepositions, symbols, etc.
– Avoid closed questions and encourage the child to speak in more than one-word utterances.
– Encourage pupil to speak aloud in class by providing visual prompts. Allowing the pupil to read information may be easier for them than speaking spontaneously.
– The use of a Home-School Diary can help pupils in telling their ‘news’.
– Develop language through drama and role-play.
– Set up regular and additional opportunities to speak to others, e.g. taking messages, etc.
– Provide loads of short listening activities/games and visual and tactile materials to reinforce oral work and strengthen auditory skills.
– Practise speech sounds and reinforce all speech sound work visually: pictures, symbols & signs e.g. Jolly Phonics.