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Transcript of English Language Learners and Students with Autism

English Language Learners and Students with Autism

Though English Language Learners and students with autism may seem
worlds apart in the classroom, their needs often overlap. Some of the most
common and successful strategies used in inclusive classrooms work
interchangeably between the two needs.
Vaughn, S. R., Bos, C. S., & Schumm, J. S. (2011).
Teaching students who are exceptional, diverse, and at risk in the general
classroom (5th ed.) Pearson.

I used multiple sections of this textbook. Chapter nine (Teaching Students

with Autism Spectrum Disorders/Pervasive Development Disorders) covered
what Autism means and useful tips for teachers responsible for students
with Autism, or similar PDDs. Chapter seven (Teaching Students with
Communication Disorders) includes information about ELL students and
how they can find success in an inclusive classroom.
What are the struggles of an ELL student?
ELLs struggle to understand language and culture of the classroom,
because it is often very different from what they know. Therefore the
students often have a hard time understanding:
The expectations of the class, project, or assignment
The directions for an assignment
The classroom schedule for the day, or even normal routine
Background knowledge allowing the child to relate to the assignment, book,
or discussion
Social language or informal English
Academic language or formal English
Students will often struggle relating to other students and peers. ELL
students tend to congregate with one another, or isolate themselves. Eating
different food and dressing differently may seem like a minor difference
between students, yet to ELLs and their peers it can be a barrier.
ELL students will often have limited resources at home. Diverse areas with
ELL students often coincide with low-income communities. Parents
immigrating to the US may lack financial resources. Additionally, because of
language and cultural gaps, parents may not be able to provide the
academic support needed at home.
ELL students often face feeling "dumb" or being labeled as so. Their
academic abilities are influenced by their inability to understand the
language used to administer the assignment or test. As a result, the
students will produce a grade that is not truly reflective of their ability.

What is an ELL Student?

Students for whom English is a second language.
The ELL population is diverse. An ELL can be:
A student who has just moved to America from a country that does not
primarily speak English
A student who was born in the US, but has only spoken the parents native
tongue until they entered an American school
A student with parents who do not speak English, but the student does.
However, the student lacks the background knowledge from English-
proficiency/cultural gap to be successful in school
Many students in the US immigrate to the US, and are unfamiliar with the
English language. Places they may come from:
Central and South America
Asian and Pacific Island countries
Eastern European countries
ELL students can be found across the country, in fact, in Somersworth there
is variety of ELL students. These students come from all over the globe.
Backgrounds seen in Idlehurst:
Indonesia and India (primarily seen)
The Dominican Republic
Some similarities concerning the appearances and needs of ELLs and
students with autism
Difficulties interacting and relating to peers:
As a result, the student will often be alienated within the classroom, and
especially outside of the classroom.
Trouble understanding language used within the classroom, leading to
difficulties comprehending:
Literacy used in the classroom
connections to the outside world, other class material, or the student's
personal life
Students struggle to keep up with the pace of the general classroom. Just as
other students are finishing the assignment or task, the student is just
understanding the responsibility.
What is Autism?
A developmental disability characterized by extreme withdrawal and
communication difficulties.
It is a pervasive development disorder (PDD)
Typically appears in the first 3 years of life.
Varied range in ability. Some can function independently, while others
1. Six or more of any combination of the following:
A. Impairments in social interactions (e.g., poor eye contact, lack of
responsiveness, inability to establish relationships)
B. Impairments in communication (e.g., no formal spoken language, robotic
sounding speech with little tone inflection, use of made-up gibberish words,
and repeating exactly what has been heard
2. Stereotypical behavior (e.g., body rocking, hand flapping, or fascination
with objects or specific parts of objects)
3. Onset before age of 3
Social Interaction is a challenge:
Little or no eye contact
Autistic leading
Unawareness of social situations
Little to no verbal communication
Repetitive echolalic or robotic speech
Inflexible routines
struggle with change
Major repetitions (finger flapping, body rocking)
May have some mental retardation
Rigid thinking
May have savant characteristics.

What are the struggles for a student with autism?

Students with autism have a hard time interacting socially with others,
especially peers.
For some they struggle to initiate appropriate interaction.
Others will constantly interact with peers, at inappropriate times or with
inappropriate context.
They struggle to focus. The lack of focus is often mistaken as rude or
impolite behavior. As a result peers become frustrated with the student,
affecting friendships. Even adults and professionals can struggle to accept
the student's focus level.
Students with autism often cannot deal with change. They have a firm need
for routine and planning.

Source 1
Teaching Students
Source 5
Six Key Strategies for Teachers of English-Language Learners
Source 6
Teaching Autism in Inclusive Classrooms.
Source 7
What is Autism? What Causes Autism?
Source 4
Idlehurst ELL classrooms
Source 3
Jolene Francoeur
Source 2
Gail Viarengo
Who makes up the support team for students with autism?
General education teacher
Special education specialist
The student's liaison
Adjustment counselors
Speech therapists
Occupational therapists

Who makes up the support team for ELL students?

General education teacher
ELL specialist
Health Care Personnel
Extended Family
ELL students and students with autism require a team effort. Each member
plays an important role in the success of the student. While each member is
valued individually, the group needs to wok as a team. Members of the team
are constantly in contact with one another figuring how they can meet the
needs of the student.
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for ELL students: Presentation in
Introduce new activities and assignments in advanced to the student. Going
over essential academic vocabulary, will allow the student to have a
stronger understanding of the terminology. This understanding gives the
student a chance to focus his/her attention on other elements of the
directions or lesson.
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for ELL students: Using Peers
After explaining a direction have a student summarize or highlight key
concepts to the ELL.
Peer-to-peer interaction has many benefits for ELLs:
Learn content through another students perspective
ELL can practice speaking /listening/using academic vocabulary
ELL interaction with a peer builds social skills
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for students with Autism: Routine
Have a consistent routine for the classroom. Display this schedule for the
On their desk
On the whiteboard for entire class
Anchor chart for entire class
Have a firm classroom system:
Ways to ask for help
Bathroom breaks
Filing of assignments
This system of organization helps lower the student's anxiety. Without a
focus on stressors, the student is able to give more attention to the lesson.
Students with autism appreciate knowing what to expect. Following a
routine and system within the classroom puts the student at ease.
The Overlap
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for ELL students: Meta Cognition and
Frequent Assessment
Teach and encourage meta cognition processes
Pre-writing skills
Pre-reading skills
Word analysis
Methods to monitor reading comprehension
Introduce and model ways to iterate thinking verbally and through writing
Check for understanding. This can be done through:
Guided reading
Completing chapter pre-reading guides
Reciprocal teaching
Directed Reading Thinking Activity (DRTA)
Anticipation guides
Learning logs or journals
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for ELL students: Developing Language
and Vocabulary
Introduce new concepts with essential academic vocabulary.
When explaining academic vocabulary use detail and examples:
Relate to experiences
Reinforce students knowledge of academic vocabulary. This can be done
Word analysis (dissection of word)
Vocabulary journals
A-B-C books
Word walls
Interactive editing

Strategy in the inclusive classroom for ELL students: Building Background

Before presenting a unit never assume what pre-existing is understood for
the ELL.
For example, when introducing the Revolutionary War an ELL student may
have no idea who George Washington is.
Be sure to work with the ELL student to set the scene for the unit, this may
even be an opportunity to sneak in academic language for the unit.
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for ELL students: Preparation for the
ELL students will often feel unprepared. For many, they might be hearing
vocabulary or concepts for the first-time. However, they do not want to be
embarrassed in front of their peers.
Giving the ELL schedule for the day or week can make a world of
difference. This allows the students some more time to mentally prepare
for the lesson.
Interview with Jolene Francoeur on 10/1/13

Jolene Francoeur is the ELL specialist at the Idlehurst Elementary School in

Somersworth NH. I was able to sit with her in person on Tuesday, October
2nd, 2013. She explained her role in the Idlehurst school and Somersworth
community. She prefaced what type of strategies I might see in action
following the interview.
Observation at Idlehurst Elementary on 10/1/13

Following my interview with Jolene Francoeur I followed her to two

classrooms. My first observation was in a second grade classroom with five
ELL students, but focused specifically on two lower level boys. During my
time, there was a focus lesson on reading strategies. The boys then read to
us practicing the strategies. The next classroom was a Kindergarten
classroom with 5 ELL students. Mrs. Francoeur worked with these students
to identify different words through toys. The toys were then sorted by
Teaching Autism in Inclusive Classrooms. (January 3,
2013). Retrieved 9/25, 2013, from http://www.child-autism-parent-

This website describes some of the struggles students with autism face
everyday. Knowing the challenges of autism, the site describes six strategies
that can be used by teachers in inclusive classrooms.
Alliance for Excellent Education. (December, 2005). Six Key
Strategies for Teachers of English-Language Learners. Retrieved 09/25,
2013, from

This website was a great resource for my project, but also teachers with
ELL students in their classroom. The cite discussed 6 different general
strategies that could be used to improve learning. It also included what
those strategies might look like.
Interview with Gail Viarengo on 9/29/13

Gail Viarengo is a specialist in the Westford school system. She works with a
variety of disabled students at the Stonybrook Middle School. I initially
contacted her through email about her work with autistic students. She told
me that she was currently working with both ELLs and students with
autism. She was able to explain what autism usually looks like. She also
explained how she has seen inclusive strategies between ELL and students
with autism overlap.
Medical News Today. (August, 2013). What is autism?
what causes autism?. Retrieved 9/25, 2013, from

This website identifies what autism looks like. It included examples of what
parents and educators should look for when identifying autism. The site also
mentioned possible causes and myths about autism.
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for students with Autism: Working with
a Peer
Modeling is a strong way for a student with autism to visualize the
assignment. When modeling is done by a peer it is even more meaningful.
The instructor can select a group of tolerant and strong students to be a
peer buddy. The teacher may even choose to educate the selected group
about autism or the challenges this student faces.
The instructor will use these peers to work with the student throughout the
The selected students should frequently cycle out, to avoid burning out. The
selected students should also be encouraged to discuss any problems or
concerns they have with the teacher.
Working with a peer buddy will allow the class to become a more accepting
unit, and allow students with autism to practice academic social skills.
Raelyn Carlyle
EDUC 751/851
ELLs and students with autism are more similar than most would think.
Both groups have a hard time relating to the regular classroom because of
cultural, emotional, or cognitive barriers. ELLs and students with autism
both significantly struggle with language. The language gap and
misunderstandings has a huge impact on the student's overall
Inclusive strategies that work for both ELLs and students with autism:
Modeling through the teacher and peers
Providing routine and scheduling outlines in advanced
Introducing new subject material and vocab privately in advanced to reduce
Reinforce thoughts and new vocabulary through writing and
speaking activities
Its a group effort...
Strategy in the inclusive classroom for students with Autism: Watch for
Sensory and Emotional Overload
Teachers and instructors should be very aware of the student's emotions
and sensory intake. Students with autism can be quickly and easily
When overloaded the student may:
Rock body back and forth (repetitive behavior)
Cover ears
Squeeze body part
The teacher should try to address the student's anxiety before it becomes to
extreme. However, onset can be sudden in some cases.
When the student is having a sensory or emotional overload the teacher
should have a suggested place the student can go or something they can do
to calm down:
Stress ball
Take a walk
The teacher is then able to continue instruction with the rest of the class.