Foreign Language Acquisition among Children with Down Syndrome: A Precedent Study for Christian Schools
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SubjectChildren with Down syndrome--Education
Children with Down syndrome--Language
Second language acquisition
Children with Down syndrome are largely excluded from the foreign language classroom, and no research exists documenting their abilities to learn a foreign language. Research is needed to demonstrate the abilities of children with Down syndrome to learn a foreign language so that they might be included in the foreign language classroom along with their typically developing peers and be afforded the same benefits of learning a second language. This exploratory mixed methods multiple case study is the first to document the participation of elementary-aged children with Down syndrome in a foreign language class and to measure the receptive and expressive lexical acquisition of Spanish as a foreign language in students with Down syndrome. In the first phase, students underwent a six-week Spanish intervention. In the second phase vocabulary assessments based off of the Spanish intervention curriculum were developed and in the third phase participants were assessed on their expressive and receptive Spanish vocabulary using standardized assessments and the instrumentation developed in stage two. All students demonstrated measurable evidence of Spanish vocabulary acquisition, with receptive acquisition exceeding expressive, and exposure to a foreign language did not appear to impact L1 vocabulary development. Additionally, maternal education, L1 receptive ability, performance on a nonword repetition task, and L1 expressive ability were found to significantly correlate with FL acquisition. Finally, the qualitative and quantitative data was combined to provide an overall language acquisition profile of each child who participated in the multiple case study. Implications for children with Down syndrome, foreign language teachers, school administrators and other professionals, and Christian schools are discussed.