Often times, instruction with special needs children begins in early childhood, often before most children enter Kindergarten. This is because these very special children require a more intensive approach to education. Early childhood programs across the country have been very beneficial to children, and families, increasing the number of children who are ready for some mainstream classes when they are old enough to enter primary school.
English Language Learner (ELL) instruction is directed towards increasing vocabulary, and developing proper pronunciation. Many children who have speech delays need additional tutoring, speech therapy, and small group instruction to broaden their language skills. ELL helps accomplish this by being integrated into these instructions.
The key to successfully educating children with special needs is to take a whole-child approach to individualized instruction. Because of this the most common instrument used in special education is what is known as an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. These comprehensive plans follow children throughout their school years, being periodically updated according to areas of strengths, delays, and the need for continuing directives in certain areas. Language development is commonly found in IEP’s due to a large percentage of special needs children who need detailed language instruction because of delays, or physical challenges.
States are required to test non-native English speaking children in public schools. This helps them identify the student needs and increase their ELL teachers, and tutors, if necessary. ELL students generally participate a yearly assessment to gauge their language development, but in the case of special education this may, or may not, be a test that is included in their IEP.
ELL uses a tiered approach to instruction in both special education and mainstream, non-native, English instruction. By using physical gestures, visual cues, flashcards, vocabulary worksheets, tutoring, small group instruction, and graphic organizers students are given many options to explore language making it suitable for a variety of learning styles. ELL can be tailored to an individual depending on the level of language proficiency.
The general consensus is that it takes approximately five to seven years for ELL students to compete academically with their native-speaking peers. This time frame may take longer, or shorter, for special needs children depending on each child’s learning capabilities.
Parents who are home instructors can also utilize ELL activities at home with their children. Some websites for teachers, and parents, that have detailed, integrative ELL activities are:
Teacher resources for online instruction
Online ESL phonics worksheets
Words, sounds and engaging pictures