Dual Language Learners with Disabilities: Supporting Young Children in the Classroom
Young dual language learners are children who are learning two or more languages either simultaneously or sequentially. As in any population of children, a percentage of this group will be children with disabilities. Teachers in early childhood settings need to be able to address the needs of all young children, including those young DLLs with disabilities. Keep in mind that the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) provides guidance to the field on recommended practices for young children with or at-risk for disabilities.
Because it can be challenging to distinguish between a disability and language difference, teachers should be mindful that a developmental delay or disability will be observable in both of the DLL’s languages and across multiple settings. After observing the child and gathering information from the family, teachers who still have concerns can conduct a developmental screening. If screening results indicate possible delays, qualified professionals should conduct a more comprehensive evaluation, keeping issues related to language acquisition in mind.
When working with DLLs, especially those with disabilities, it is important for teachers to understand some unique issues around:
- Maintaining the home language
- Collaborating with families
- Using effective instructional strategies
- Environment and instructional grouping
- Use visual supports
- Use familiar and non-stereotypical materials
- Learn the child’s home language
- Promote peer support and interaction
Revisiting Initial Thoughts
Think back to your initial responses to the following questions. After working through the resources in this module, do you still agree with your Initial Thoughts? If not, what aspects of your answers would you change?
(opinion) Imagine you are Mrs. Raymond. What thoughts come to mind about the new school year?
What do teachers need to know about young dual language learners with disabilities?
What are some unique issues related to working with families of these children?
What strategies can teachers use to support these children?
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.