Second Language Acquisition and Disability Characteristics
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Second Language Acquisition and Disability Characteristics Differentiating between the characteristics of an ESL Student and an ESL student with a disability begins with the understanding of three things: 1. Many factors affect second language acquisition. 2. Language develops over an extended period of time. 3. The process of acquiring a second language is complex. Each student acquires language differently. Language acquisition is greatly influenced by the context in which it takes place. Individuals will acquire language at varying rates with varying degrees of social and academic language proficiency skills. Observing and commenting on these factors in the ESL student report provides valuable baseline information on ESL students suspected of having disabilities. When attempting to distinguish the difference between an ESL student and an ESL student with a disability, the following facts should be considered: 1. The degree of disability present can vary depending on the student's processing skills and cognitive level. 2. Many children stop speaking their first language when they begin speaking English. When this happens, lack of further development in the first language should not be considered a language learning problem. It is symptomatic of the systems effect on the students, not due to a physiological state within the student. 3. The student with a disability may learn English at a much slower rate than a non- disabled student. 4. Students with language disorders tend to exhibit the same kinds of problems in their native language. The following are characteristics that might be shared by an ESL student with a disability and one without a disability; however, there are different causal variables that determine whether the ESL student has a disability or not. In this initial state of investigation, the concern about a student's learning is to ascertain whether the causal variables are ESL related. The needs of an ESL student focus on learning another language for social and academic purposes. ESL/SPEd students need to learn how to learn and learn how to learn a language at the same time. ESL students need access to English-speaking peers, interactive activities, and challenging content (Rojas, 1998).