There is, unfortunately, a long history of categorizing English Language Learners as having special needs when, in fact, they just need additional language support.
However, there are also English Language Learners who do, indeed, have special needs.
I’d like to publish — either at my Education Week Teacher column or here — recommendations from experienced educators on how to assist ELLs with special needs.
If you have experience in this area, please leave your contact information in the comments section of this post (all comments are moderated, and I won’t publish it). I’ll contact you and we can go from there….
I hope many join in. I’m convinced that all ELLs are “special needs” students and every chance I get, really urge teachers to get special ed qualifications if they are serious about teaching English as a second language.
The tips are all the same, as with special needs students.
1. Set Routines
3. Rewards. Small steps. Stages.
4. Modifications of content and delivery
5. Individual plans for each student. Differentiation.
6. Personalization. Use the students’ interests/backgrounds
7. Don’t get in over your head. Hand off to trained professionals, early on.
Colorin colorado has a nice article full of tips. http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/13022/
Many techniques used in special education support good ESL instruction and vice versa. I worked with many mainstreamed EFL students who were also pulled out for “special instruction” for LDs. Depending on the students’ needs and areas of concern:
1) Break down assignments into small, manageable steps. Consider putting each step on a separate sheet of paper.
2) Use timers for “focused time” and free time for ADD / ADHD students especially.
3) Write instructions on the board as well as giving them orally.
4) Set up designated space in a notebook as a “homework” journal; check to make sure students have written it down (properly) before they leave the classroom.
5) Provide a variety of methods to meet the end result. I.e., dyslexic students can benefit from audio books and oral book reports; students with writing processing issues can often keyboard better than hand write; dictation for idea organization or notes.
6) Recognize the student staring off into space and seemingly paying no attention might have heard every word you said; find formative assessments to measure understanding in multiple ways
7) PDD students (on the autistic spectrum but high functioning) have a variety of challenges including social skills, appropriate turn taking, understanding of subtle behavioral cues, etc. Understanding why our normal teaching “suggestions” aren’t working in modifying classroom behavior goes a long way in finding solutions.
8) Teachers — educate yourselves. You don’t have to be a special education instructor, but understanding why the PDD student won’t look you in the eye or the ADHD learner simply won’t sit still for 45 minutes will help you find ways of modifying instruction.
By working with LD / ESL learners, I improved my instruction skills enormously, whether teaching LD ESL learners or just the normal spectrum of students.