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Conference: Teaching students with Down Syndrome

On Wednesday 14th of December we attended the V Conference Innovation in Philology and Communication Studies: Methodological and Research Applications. In this blog entry I am going to summarise the main points of a very interesting paper: Second Language Learning in Down Syndrome children by Laura Sicilia Polo, UCM.  This topic is of great interest since there is little research and hardly any pedagogical materials.


The main difficulties a person with DS has in first language learning are:

  • phonology, due to physical reasons (bigger tongue and larynx). Despite this, their utterances are intelligible.
  • vocabulary: they are good at closed class items, i.e. Pronouns, prepositions, etc. Their biggest problem in this area are open class items because their long-term memory is weak.
  • grammar: strength of closed class system, they rely on present tense and active voice, passive voice poses a problem
  • reading: thanks to their good visual memory, this skill is very well developed
  • pragmatics: no important impediments have been observed


In second language learning, the difficulties are similar to L1. There is a discussion going on about whether DS students should be monolingual or bilingual because they have delays even in L1, so this choice is up to the parents. Moreover, as teachers we should have in mind that they prefer spoken input. In order to get further information about L2 in DS students, this article is highly recommendes as it deals with the problems mentioned here.



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