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Old 03-11-2010, 11:09 AM
 
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My son has mild AS syndrome but is quite intelligent, on the honor roll in grade 6. Next year he has the chance to take a foreign language which I really want him to do, but his special ed. facilitator is trying to say he is not ready for this for various reasons...(I totally disagree).

I've already begun to teach him some basics of Spanish and exposed him to a little of foreign languages.

His Special Ed. facilitator/teacher says he is not doing well enough in English to start a new language, but I disagree. His verbal scores are very high and he has a excellent vocabulary, understands 'figures of speech,' and I feel he'd do well.

I also did my Master's Thesis on Second Language Acquisition and the longer you wait, the harder it is to pick up a language.

I plan on going forward at home helping him learn Spanish this summer but I'd like some other pros to weigh in.

I am also working on improving his English writing skills (a lot of these are due to dyspraxia not lack of mental ability).

In the end, we are moving *at some point* anyhow but still, I'd like more opinions.

Thanks very much.
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Old 03-11-2010, 01:14 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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It is a really hard call.

The first thing that I will address is the improper use of the term "second language acquisition," which is used to refer to people who are living in a non-native environment and are aquiring that second language (usually not in a classroom, hence the term acquisition) in order to survive in their new environment. What you are referring to (I think) is foreign language learning.

As a foreign lang teacher, I will say that the students who already have difficulty in English tend to have a lot of difficulty with a foreign language. And because they have difficulty, they end up getting frustrating and/or acting out, which sets them back even more.

As important as it is to begin learning a foreign lagng at a young age, it is counter-productive if it is too difficult for the student. If he has difficulty next year and gets frustrated, he might never want to learn a foreign lang (which is a much more important factor than age) or worse, he might conclude that he is unable to do it.

If the special ed. teacher has concerns about his ability in English and how it will affect his learning a foreign language, it might be because the majority of students at his school are doing just that: learning a foreign language. Recently, lang professionals have begun to differentiate between learning a foreign lang (emphasis on grammar, teacher usually presents material in English) and aquisition (not as much emphasis on grammar, teacher speaks in target lang).

If the foreign lang teacher is *teaching* the target lang, then he definitely shouldn't take the course; he should continue at home in a very low stress environment, probably with an approach in which grammar is de-emphasized. If the teacher is helping students to *acquire* the language, then he might be okay but will probably need a tutor. I am of course assuming in all of this that he responds better to a non-traditional approach to langs, which might also be useful to improve his English skills.

Lastly, I would ask your child how he feels about it. Does he want to take the class? How does he think he'll do? That said, you might see if admin will allow him to take the course for 2-4 weeks (with the ability to drop, if necessary) so he can get an idea whether or not it is appropriate for him at this point.
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Old 03-11-2010, 09:09 PM
 
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GypsySoul22 teach him on your own slowly. If he is that bright he can pick it up. My mother was told I would never walk talk or go to a normal school. They wanted me in special ed any other thing then that was a waste of time in their eyes. I took the same classes as everyone went to college got a BA did some MA work and walk and talk as well. My mother never bougth into I could not do things because of my handicap. You know what you son can do. Teachers are educated but not always smart you what I mean.. Other then the guy who just made fun of my typing on the end of teaching job outlook post life is good
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Old 03-12-2010, 09:08 AM
 
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Research shows those learning two languages simultaneously learn BOTH faster and more effectively. This is actually part of a test/certification program teachers must now go through (CLAD is what it's called).
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Old 03-12-2010, 11:28 AM
 
Location: a warmer place
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Well they say dyslexics kids have a very hard time with foreign language and many get excused from foreign language requirements in the upper grades. My child struggles too with language but has done well in Spanish. You know it is 6th grade....why not give it a try? It is an easier language to learn than English. Sometimes our special kids surprise us. Foriegn language instructions can really help with your native tongue as well. Children who learn a foreign language early generally improve in their native tongue as well. I would go for it.
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Old 03-12-2010, 12:48 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skyway31 View Post
Research shows those learning two languages simultaneously learn BOTH faster and more effectively. This is actually part of a test/certification program teachers must now go through (CLAD is what it's called).
Right, but most of these studies apply to students who do not have learning disabilities. The OP is asking about advice re: her son who has a learning disability and foreign language learning, not about foreign language learning in general. CLAD really has absolutely nothing to do with her question.
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Old 03-12-2010, 01:08 PM
 
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My son has similar learning disabilities as that of the OP. He also regularly made the honor roll, and has made it to college.

We had to make it through two years of Spanish in order for him to qualify for a college prep diploma, but it was a struggle from beginning to end. He did take Spanish beginning in 6th grade, but at that age it was mostly learning things such as days of the week, counting, etc. The middle school years didn't have the same focus on grammar and proper pronunciation as the high school classes did.

If you are willing to accept a "passable" grade in 6th grade, the experience can be beneficial. Just don't assume that because your child does ok in middle school, they will handle high school languages without difficulty.
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Old 03-12-2010, 07:50 PM
 
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I teach in a Spanish immersion program where we have had several children with Asperger Syndrome who did quite well learning the new language. In fact, a couple of AS children come to mind who picked up on Spanish very well. I had one AS student who most delightfully translated his interest in trains into two languages. Those children have moved on to middle school fluently speaking Spanish like a native speaker and continue in the immersion program there.

Of course, as you know, there is a difference between acquisition of a language via total immersion and junior high spanish class.

You might want to research some computer software programs for beginning Spanish to let your son get a feel for his interest level.

You might also want to see if there is a summer spanish camp in your area.

Some of my friends have taken they children to 2-3 week immersion programs in Mexico and had rave reviews.

My gut reaction is why not if he is interested!? Plus, it sounds like that is your gut reaction too, and you know your son better than anyone. He's quite intelligent and sounds like he has a lot of support at home. Best of luck to both of you!
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Old 03-13-2010, 08:04 AM
 
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Thanks for all the replies. I appreciate your personal stories and professional observations.
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Old 03-13-2010, 09:21 AM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bongo View Post
I teach in a Spanish immersion program where we have had several children with Asperger Syndrome who did quite well learning the new language. In fact, a couple of AS children come to mind who picked up on Spanish very well. I had one AS student who most delightfully translated his interest in trains into two languages. Those children have moved on to middle school fluently speaking Spanish like a native speaker and continue in the immersion program there.

Of course, as you know, there is a difference between acquisition of a language via total immersion and junior high spanish class.

You might want to research some computer software programs for beginning Spanish to let your son get a feel for his interest level.

You might also want to see if there is a summer spanish camp in your area.

Some of my friends have taken they children to 2-3 week immersion programs in Mexico and had rave reviews.

My gut reaction is why not if he is interested!? Plus, it sounds like that is your gut reaction too, and you know your son better than anyone. He's quite intelligent and sounds like he has a lot of support at home. Best of luck to both of you!
Exactly. Especially with students with disabilities, it has nothing to do with their ability to learn or acquire the lang but with how it is presented to them.
That really is heartening to hear that you had a positive response from AS students; I will keep it in mind the next time I have a student with AS.
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