Contact Us

Best Practices for ELL Students with Speech-Language Disorders - featured October 2, 2009

< Back to Previous Page

Best Practices for ELL Students with Speech-Language Disorders

Reprinted with their express permission of Catherine Trapskin.

By: Catherine Trapskin, M.S. CCC-SLP

Speech-language pathologists, classroom teachers, special education teachers, and other professionals need to adapt teaching strategies and interactions with English Language Learning (ELL) students who also have speech-language disorders. These individuals have a unique challenge in that they are trying to learn a second language when even their first language in impaired.

The following suggestions can be used by speech-language pathologists, classroom teachers, special education teachers, ESL teachers, and other professionals in small or large group settings.

• Because many ELL students go through a silent period which may last from several weeks to a year or two, it is important to focus on comprehension activities. ELL students with a language disorder should not be forced to speak if they are not comfortable or ready. Although we would immediately emphasize language production from a monolingual language impaired student, we wouldn't necessarily do the same with an ELL student. Of course teachers man gently encourage production but remember to respect the fact that the student may take a while before feeling comfortable speaking English.

• Slow down the rate of speech when speaking to ELL language impaired students. By speaking slowly, these students can understand and process information more effectively.

• Pause often. Pauses give a student time to process information. These pauses can be between words, phrases, and/or sentences as needed by the student.

• Use shorter, simpler sentences. Long, complicated sentences are more difficult for an ELL language impaired student to understand. Repeat and rephrase as needed. Include gestures.

• Use visuals and hands-on learning materials. Auditory information should also be paired with visuals to assist with comprehension.

• Allow extra time to process and answer questions.

• Be careful to avoid idioms or slang.

• Seat ELL language impaired students near the front of the classroom where they can see and hear the teacher easily. Assign a classroom peer to assist as the student needs.

Featured Blogger: Catherine Trapskin:

We thank Catherine Trapskin for allowing us to reprint her blog entry.

About Catherine: Catherine Trapskin is a bilingual (Spanish) SLP working for the Minneapolis Public Schools, a district which represents over 80 different languages. She currently has a caseload and also works at the district level in her special education/ELL department. This part of her job entails training other special ed staff on how to assess, use best practices to teach special ed/ELL students, work with interpreters, etc.

She came up with the idea for this blog/website because it seemed that although almost every SLP has at least one, if not several more individuals on their caseload who are English Language Learners. As she has conducted trainings around the district and state, Catherine has found that people's knowledge and skill in this area is so varied and people are always desperate for information and ideas. She is currently working on creating a site that will allow for questions, forums, materials exchange, etc, which she hopes will be up and running sometime this fall.

Tags: October 2009 Newsletter Tip or Resources of Week Bilingualism Article SLP