Special Educational Needs in Europe

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Every person has a unique and different genetic make up. This means that no two individuals are exactly alike. When the word special is used in reference to a particular person, it means that the person is different from the rest in one or more ways. A person with special needs is one who has characteristics that make them different from what is commonly expected of a person. Teaching foreign languages to people with special education needs has a lot of implications. They could either be positive or negative implications.

Learning is the process through which an individual acquires, retains, and reproduces information in every day life. There are theories that seek to define this process by providing a conceptual framework within which the learning experience occurs and a prescription for possible solutions in case of anomalies in the learning process (White, 2005).

Learners who have special needs require specialized training in order to meet with their educational needs. However, in many areas of learning, people with special needs have been excluded from participating in some programs because it is believed that they will not be able to learn. One such area is that of learning of foreign languages. Teaching foreign languages to learners with special needs is not a common practice in the education sector as most of the tutors believe that it is difficult and almost impossible for such learners to understand.

This paper shall address the issue of modern language in special education. A literature review shall be conducted on modern foreign languages and special education inclusion. The paper shall also discuss the various theories of learning, a brief history of inclusion in the UK, benefits and disadvantages of learning a second language and the problems facing UK in teaching a language to students with SEN. At the end of the paper, a conclusion shall be arrived at. In the conclusion, it shall be noted that learning a foreign language by children with special needs has both advantages and disadvantages. However, since it is the right of every child to access education without any discrimination, there is need for necessary measures to be taken to ensure that the curriculum is designed in a way that the needs of all learners are accommodated.



There are diverse styles of learning used by learners of foreign languages. The multiple intelligence theory suggests that there is basically no single intelligence, mind or problem solving capacity since all individuals are unique in these areas. Therefore, each person has a mind, intelligence and problem solving capacity that is different from others. Suggesting that there is only one way of doing certain things is, therefore, incorrect. According to Gardner (2006), children possess different learning capabilities and abilities. They understand, remember, and reproduce information learnt at different levels and in different ways. The way that students use this intelligence to solve real-life situations and apply them for progressive activities also differs. It is for this reason that students will behave differently to situations and performance is varied among students who take similar lessons in similar levels.

Contemporary educational systems tend to overlook these differences among students. Governments all around the world have in place institutions that treat student learning uniformly with the assumption that students of a similar academic level will have similar performance and ability to grasp and retain academic information. If these existing differences among individual students are to be appreciated, society and educational institutions should come up with different ways and criteria for assessing students at all levels (Gardner, 2006). These theories should be suitably applied in the teaching of children with special education needs as it recognizes that even such children, just like the normal children posses different capabilities to learn and understand. In learning, these children will require differentiated approaches to their learning procedures that will enable them comprehend better what they are taught (White, 2005).

Multiple intelligence theory

Learning styles theory is sometimes referred to as multiple intelligences theory. Howard Gardner is the main proponent of multiple intelligence theory (Armstrong, 2009). The theory has impacted greatly on the education sector. It has influenced various educational practices as well as how people think.

Gardner developed this theory with the aim of not only describing the world but also creating an atmosphere where some conditions in the world can be changed. The theory was developed in 1983. It suggests that people understand the world through seven different ways (Armstrong, 2009). The seven ways of understanding the world are what Gardner refers to as ‘intelligences’. Although the theory was initially developed by Gardner, it has been modified by other scholars in the subsequent years after its formulation. Gardner suggests the following seven intelligences, although he posits that there could be others not in his list. There are a number of learning styles as proposed in the theory of multiple intelligences. These are ways through which the learning process can be facilitated by instructors. These styles are in recognition of the fact that different students have different learning needs and can learn in different ways. These styles, therefore, elaborate the various methods through which learning takes place in individual students (Pashler et al, 2008).

The first intelligence suggested by Gardner is what he refers to as linguistic. He describes linguistic as a person’s capability of making use of words in a logical manner. The words could either be written or spoken. People who possess this kind of intelligence are usually very sensitive to language that is either written or spoken. Most of the people with this intelligence use it language to attain certain goals in life (Armstrong, 2009). Most of them end up being poets or writers. Some students learn well through procedures that are linguistically inclined. Such procedures are wordy and every aspect of learning is done in words. Such students will think in words, like to read, play games of words, and poetry. Learning for these students is more effective when they read and speak out words. They employ such tools as computers, tape recorders, games, and multimedia (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2008).

Logical mathematical intelligence is the second one suggested by Gardner. It deals with how well one is able to recognize and use numbers in a logical manner. In this intelligence, inductive and deductive reasoning of an individual are very vital. People with this form of intelligence are able to solve mathematic al and scientific problems with a lot of ease (Armstrong, 2009). Therefore, most of the people who deal with scientific and mathematical issues possess this intelligence. Students of this caliber like to reason and calculate concepts and abstracts and explore patterns in nature. They are the kind of students who like to experiment and proof concepts before they can believe them. They solve puzzles and question most things. These can be taught through games of logic, mysteries, and investigations (Pashler et al, 2008).

Visual spatial intelligence deals with an individual’s ability to create mental pictures of objects as well as spatial directions. It also addresses the potential of an individual to distinguish and make use of patterns in different ways that are logical. This style requires one to think in terms of space. Children are made aware of and taught with reference to their environments. This is a similar approach as applied by architects and sailors who use maps, puzzles, models, graphic presentations, and 3-D modeling in their work (Pashler et al, 2008).

Body-kinesthetic intelligence deals with body movements. Particularly, this intelligence looks at an individual’s capability to be in control of all the physical motions done by the individual using their body (Armstrong, 2009). Body-kinesthetic intelligence also involves the use of parts of the body or the entire body in solving an existing problem. The bodily-kinetic style emphasizes use of body movement with keen observation of bodily actions as is common with dancers and surgeons. These communicate a lot with their bodies such as using hand signs, acting out various roles, and many other ways. Tools employed in this kind of learning are equipment and tangible objects (Pashler et al, 2008). Although it is the body that is mostly involved in this form of intelligence, the mental ability of an individual counts a lot in this form of intelligence.

Musical-rhythmic is a form of intelligence that deals with how well one responds to music. This includes how well an individual is able to learn music and other components of music that accompany it such as the beats, tone and rhythm. It also deals with other musical aspects such as composition and performance of music. The learner shows high sensitivity and response to sound and rhythm. Students of this kind love music and any sound with rhythm. These learn well while listening to some music form the background, adapt learning concepts into musical rhythms, and use particular songs to remind them of particular learning concepts. Tools used in this kind of learning include musical instruments, radio, multimedia, etc (Pashler et al, 2008).

Interpersonal is the other form of intelligence suggested by Gardner. Interpersonal is a form of intelligence that addresses how well an individual is able to communicate with other people in the society (Armstrong, 2009). It deals with issues such as effectiveness of communication and ability to create relationships with other people and maintain them. Interpersonal intelligence enhances effective interaction with other people and is particularly important to people in areas such as sales, political and education among others. Some students understand more and better when they learn by interacting with others. This is what can be referred to as interpersonal learning. Such students are best taught using group activities such as seminars and group dialogues. Tools used for this type of learning include audio and video conferencing, E-mail, and telephones.

The final intelligence suggested by Gardner is intrapersonal. Intrapersonal deals with an individual’s emotions and how well the individual is able to understand and manage these emotions (Armstrong, 2009). The motivations and self-esteem of an individual are also addressed by this intelligence. As opposed to those who learn well in groups, others learn well through motivation drawn from within. These students tend to be shy and stay in solitude. They find their inspiration and motivation from within them and are confident of themselves. They harbor strong opinions about many things and exhibit a high degree of wisdom and intuition. Such students learn better when they are taught in independent environment, and encouraged to inspect their progress on their own. Such a learning process makes use of books, privacy, and creative materials (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2008).

Gardner sees these intelligences as a way of providing the human race with a definition that was non-existent prior to the development of the theory. He posits that human beings possess the set of intelligences he proposes. Every person is unique and has a unique blend of intelligence that is different from other people (Armstrong, 2009). In Gardner’s opinion, the challenge that human beings are faced with is how to make use of the individual differences that people have as a result of possessing the different set of intelligences. The unique intelligences that cause a difference in people’s lives can be used either positively or negatively. It is upon individuals to decide how they would want to make use of the differences brought about by possession of different intelligences by different people.

Gardner argues that if educators employ his theory in teaching, they would have seven different ways of teaching instead of one (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2008). This theory supports the argument that it is possible for learners with SEN to learn a modern language successfully. Since the theory was developed in the 1980’s, various educators have used it in the learning context and positive results have been recorded. The theory posits that there are several intelligences used to measure the intelligence of a person and not just a single intelligence as suggested by IQ tests. In order for learners to effectively learn a foreign language, diverse cognitive resources are used. These resources help the learner acquire various linguistic and cultural skills. Multiple intelligence theory can be used effectively by educators to teach learners with SEN a foreign language (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2008).

Working Memory

Working memory is a system of the brain that stores information temporarily to enable performance of complex functions such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Studies show that there are four parts of the brain that are crucial to this system. They are the frontal Cortex, parietal cortex, anterior cortex, and parts of the basal ganglia (Alloway, 2009). There are a lot of similarities between the functioning of the human brain and the computer. The term working memory was used in a manner that showed the similarities that exist between the human brain and the computer. Different scholars have proposed different models on the manner in which the working memory functions. However, some of the models are more dominant than others.

The working memory is believed to have a capacity that is limited. A typical young adult is able to memorize up to seven elements at ago. The elements could be numbers or words. The time that one takes to internalize in the mind what has been learnt depends on various factors (Alloway, 2006). One such factor is the duration taken between the time a concept has been learnt and the time taken to audibly speak what one has learnt. Again, understanding and retaining a concept in one’s mind depends on whether or not the concepts being learnt are entirely new to a person.

Research has also shown that it is poor working memory that is responsible for poor performance in students rather than intelligence. Poor working memory can, therefore, lead to serious impairment and inability for students to learn as in the case of children with special education needs. When this is the case, such children should be identified and taught through different suitable approaches. Students with special education needs can, therefore, be argued to have poor working memory and should receive special attention (Alloway, 2009).

Although the multiple intelligences theory and the working memory theory can be used to improve the learning ability of children with SEN, some researches about working memory and children with SEN indicate that this is not always the case. According to Gathercole and Pickering (2001), children who have severe special educational needs perform very poorly in most of the subjects. Children whose working memory is very poor have no ability to synthesize and store information that they are receiving. Other researchers have findings that are different from Gathercole and Pickering’s findings. For example, MacColl (2005) observes that children with SEN but at a moderate or less severe level showed great success in learning a language. These findings support the idea that all children are capable of learning a language, provided they are given the necessary assistance. These findings attempt to show that despite the diversities that exist among different learners, it is possible to exploit these diversities to improve the learning process instead of impairing it. However, many scholars note that most of the teachers involved in the teaching of a modern language to children with special education needs find it very challenging and opt for exclusion of these learners whenever it is possible to do so.


Children with special education needs need to be carefully studied and their inabilities assessed so that the right learning styles can be used while teaching them. The learning styles appeal to various parts of a student’s body and systems, and each of these children will find a style that appeals to their needs. Teachers who have the mandate to teach children with SEN modern languages should carefully explore the options that they have to effectively meet the learning needs of these children. Since there are various approaches that the teachers can use, teaching a language to children with SEN should not be a major challenge anymore to the teachers. If these theories are carefully utilized to teach children with SEN languages, there is bound to be a lot of progress in this area.

Brief history of inclusion in the UK


This is a system of education where students with special education needs learn most of their lessons with those who do not have such needs. Such an adaptation will require modification of the general syllabus to cater for the special needs of students with special needs. It is for this reason that most schools avoid inclusion, or take in those students with mild special needs (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009).

Education systems in most countries globally have a tendency to ignore the needs of some minority groups. One of the groups that has been overlooked by most education systems during making of policies or planning of the curriculum are children with special educational needs. According to Hodkinson & Vickerman (2009), exclusion of this group of children from mainstream education has been a common practice for a long time. It is not until recently that this issue was raised and attracted significant attention from various stakeholders who are now working on changing this. In the United Kingdom, the situation was not different from the rest of the countries. Children with special educational needs were locked out of the mainstream schools and excluded from some important educational practices. It was not until 35 years ago when the UK realized the need to look at inclusion in various educational institutions. This section shall look at a brief history of inclusion in the United Kingdom.

Brief history of inclusion in the UK

The area of special education needs and inclusion is one that is very broad and not easy to deal with. Although there are many people from various professions working towards meeting the educational needs of children with SEN, there are numerous challenges that they are faced with as they work towards inclusion (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). One of the most problematic areas when dealing with the educational needs of this group of children is the area of languages. In this area, some scholars argue that children with special educational needs should not be taught foreign languages while others feel that it is the right of every child to be taught the subjects that children in mainstream schools are being taught. The government is one of the key players in formulation of policies that govern the inclusion of children with SEN into the mainstream system of education. The government formulates educational policies that ensure that all children are treated equally and accorded the human dignity they deserve, despite their physical or psychological condition.

The idea for inclusion in the UK began in 1978 with a report by Baroness Warnock. The argument then was that students with special needs needed to be given equal learning opportunities as those with none. In the UK, like many other developed countries, special schools are perceived to be lowly and of lesser quality to general schools. As such, parents with children with special needs oppose their children attending special schools, and the practice is seen as discriminating against the children (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). It is for these reasons that labour groups in the region have continued their campaigns to have as many special students as possible included in mainstream education system as possible. This has seen 93 institutions for special education close down since 1997 and many headed for a similar fate.

Understanding the concept of SEN and inclusion is not an easy task because of the complexity that exists in trying to merge the two concepts (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). The issue becomes more difficult to understand because of the lack of a clear distinction in the definition of who a child with SEN is. It is not easy to define such a child because there lacks a clear mark of differentiating a child with SEN from one who does not have such needs. It is therefore hard to address any learning disabilities when a teacher does not know whether the child they are dealing with has SEN or not. The issue is complicated further by the fact that the teacher is not aware how to organize their teaching material in order to meet with the needs of all the learners.

According to Hodkinson & Vickerman (2009), a child is said to have special needs when the child exhibits signs to show that they have difficulties in understanding a concept that other children are able to understand easily, therefore, requiring provision of special education to meet their educational needs. A child who requires SEN is usually any person under the age of 19. The child must be registered in an educational institution. The term special educational needs (SEN) started to be used in 1970’s. It came into existence after the Warnock Report was released in 1970’2. Prior to this, children with SEN were identified using ten categories of shortcomings that these children possessed. The special education code of practice recognizes that the area of SEN is very wide. Children with SEN may have these needs in various areas of their lives such as in communication or when interacting with other people, in learning and understanding of the concepts taught, in the manner which they behave, develop or react to external forces and in their sensory or physical reactions towards external stimulus.

In the United Kingdom, the policy governing the provision of education for children with special needs is almost the same in most of the states. However, there are slight variations in England and Wales. Provision of education to children with special education needs in Scotland was for a long time governed by an education act that was formulated in 1980’s. In the year 2005, there were major changes in this area and the 2004 act was adopted in the place of the 1980’s act (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). This act replaced the term SEN with another one that was considered broader than SEN. They replaced SEN with ‘additional support need’. The act defines additional support need as a child or a young person who requires extra help in order to overcome the educational challenges that they are facing. Some of the reasons that may make a child or young person require additional help include: having sensory and/or motor impairment, negative life experiences such as being bullied or bereavement, having difficulties in understanding concepts taught in class or have English as a second language not their mother tongue among others.

The concept of SEN children has been a controversial one in the UK. It was noted that there was a major variation in how various people used the term. For example, in some schools in England, the term was used to refer to children who performed poorly in school (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). This shows that some schools use the term wrongly to describe the children who are below average instead of children who require special assistance to meet their educational needs.

In Wales, the policies governing the provision of special education are similar to the policies in England. The SEN Wales Regulations 2002 are used in guiding the provision of special education in Wales (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). A handbook with the title ‘good practice of children with SEN’ is also used to guide the provision of special education to this group of children in England. A report by Warnock produced in 1978 indicated that approximately 20 percent of all the school going-age children were likely to have a SEN that would require some educational intervention in order for the children to grasp the concepts taught in class. Of the 20 percent, an estimated 2 percent were noted to be in need of extreme intervention because of their condition. In 2007, the department of education and skills indicated that one in every five children has a learning difficulty and requires special intervention in order to understand what they are being taught. In the same year, data collected by the government indicated that of all the pupils registered in various learning institutions, 16.4 percent had special education needs. 2.8 percent of these had a severe need that required specialized attention.

Hodkinson & Vickerman (2009) notes that the use of the term SEN to refer to people with certain disabilities has been condemned by many people. Most people who refer to children with SEN as people with disability do so because they tend to view the limitations of this group of learners being the result of personal deficit. However, this is a wrong view because the inability of children with SEN to perform as well as their counter parts in mainstream schools is due to the fact there are barriers that have been placed before them, which they cannot easily overcome. Some of these barriers that have hindered children with special educational needs from fully utilizing their potential include a curriculum that discriminates these children, infrastructure that is not accessible and lack or organized teaching and learning methods to cater for the individual needs of these learners. Labeling children with SEN as disabled is viewed as being disrespectful and is likely to affect these learners negatively (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). The regulatory organ for provision of education for children with SEN in England is called special education needs code of practice. There are similar organs that exist in other states in the UK such as in Wales and in Scotland. This code was implemented in 1992. It stipulates the principles that govern the provision of SEN in schools. Among the principles stipulated in this code is that children with SEN have the right to access broad and relevant education without being discriminated. The principles found in this code go hand in hand with the statement of inclusion that is found in the national curriculum. The statement of inclusion helps in fair treatment of all learners through provision of the necessary educational skills without discrimination.

For a long time, children with special educational needs have been discriminated in most parts of the world and little has been done to take care of their educational needs. In the UK, the situation was the same until 35 years ago when the ministry of education started to think seriously about ensuring that there was fair provision of education to all children including those with special needs (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). Since then, the UK has strived to offer education to all children without excluding those with SEN. The commitment by the UK to do this can be illustrated by a statement by the UK Department for International Development (DFID, 2006). In this statement, DFID points out that it is the right of every human being to receive education. It further states that education is very important to a person as it helps in improvement of a person’s life and also contributes to the development of a nation. Therefore, the UK government believes that provision of education should be done without any discrimination and has strived to have an inclusive education system.

In the UK, key stakeholders in the education sector have been exploring various ways of having an all inclusive educational system (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009). In this case, all children will be able to access all the relevant information they need at their level. This means that children will learn what is important to them without being discriminated upon because of their diversities. However, extra work is being done to ensure that relevant policies are being formulated to govern provision of education in a fair manner. Development of a teaching and learning manual that caters for the needs of all children is also being considered as a way of ensuring that the education system in the UK is all inclusive. With the achievement of this, teaching a foreign language to children with SEN will not be a major challenge.


There have been major strides that the UK has taken in the area of inclusion since it started thinking about the issue of inclusion. Although there have been challenges in achieving an all inclusive education system, there are some achievements that have been realized. These achievements have also touched on the area of learning of modern languages by children with SEN.

Benefits and disadvantages in learning a second language


Many schools and scholars have postulated that it is much difficult for children with Special Education Needs (SEN) to learn foreign language. These students are viewed to have poor working memory, making it difficult for them to grasp and retain information they learn. Therefore, their ability to learn of complex subjects such as foreign language is perceived to be difficult and not worth the effort. Research has shown that there is a link between one’s first and second language. Students with special learning needs may do well in other subjects, but badly in languages and communications. For this student, the learning experience is likely to be stressing, yielding fewer results contrary to expectations (Wedin, 2010). According to Santhanam (2008), the SEN required by some learners may be as a result of various factors such as environmental, physical or psychological.

Benefits and disadvantages in learning a second language

The Centre for information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT) purports that pupils with special needs should not be hindered from learning a second language since there are some benefits of learning a foreign language. A report by Gathercole & Pickering (2001) indicates that 20 percent of all children in schools will need specialized approach when being taught at some point in their education. This is one of the reasons why a more inclusive approach is needed in the teaching of children with SEN. This includes a more comprehensive approach in teaching these children a modern language. A document by The Centre for information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT) contains some of the benefits that are got when students with special needs learn a foreign language (MacColl, 2000).

According to (MacColl, 2000), the first benefit explained in this document is enhancing language development. Contrary to popular opinion that learning a second language by students with special needs hinders language development, CILT posits that it promotes language development instead (EC, 2005). During the process of learning a second language, learners with special needs develop better understanding of concepts. This means that learning activities that seemed very hard for the learners to grasp become easy to understand once they start learning a foreign language. Students who are involved in learning a second language appear to be more developed cognitively and gain acceptance into the community where they live more easily.

Learning of a foreign language also leads to development in speech (MacColl, 2000). This comes as a result of the student’s will to participate in learning a language that is different from their own. This makes them more willing to take part in the learning process. Since the language they are learning is new to all of them, they are aware that all of them are capable of making mistakes during pronunciation and construction of sentences in the new language. Communication with one another, therefore, becomes easy because everyone is learning without fearing that the other person is more proficient in the language than them. Communicating in a new language, which is completely different from the language they are used to, becomes fun and learners are excited and enthusiastic to communicate with the rest of the learners (EC, 2005). However, some people have a different opinion about this issue. They believe that instead of some learners being enthusiastic about the language they are learning, they may choose to withdraw. Gathercole and Pickering (2001) notes that this is because they may fear to make mistakes that may embarrass them before their peers. Learning of the foreign language, therefore, becomes a burden to them. Some learners may also prefer to develop their language skills through engagement in tasks that do not require them to speak a lot as it is in the case of a second language. Engaging them in learning a second language to enhance development of a second language may be a big burden to them because they are not very comfortable. Therefore, Learning of the language may not be beneficial to them. On the side of teachers, teaching a foreign language to learners with SEN may not be an exciting task (MacColl, 2000). This is especially so because teachers feel that learners with SEN have problems with communication using their mother tongues. Therefore, introducing a foreign language when their mother tongues are already problematic is not a good idea since it is burdening to both the students and the teachers. Teaching of a foreign language to these learners may make them confused on how best to express themselves.

MacColl (2000) states that the second benefit discussed in CILT document is social development. Learning of a foreign language presents learners with an opportunity to practice and develop social skills. Learning of a foreign language entails the use of different methods that enhance group interaction and learners are able to learn important social skills that may not be learnt using any other way. During the learning process, learners and the teacher interact a lot as they participate in various activities. Therefore, they are able to set aside their differences as they learn the foreign language and participate in the required tasks. This helps them to develop their self esteem since they engage in interaction with one another in a less conscious manner. The learners overcome any prejudice that may exist and are able to develop interpersonal skills. Excluding learners with SEN from learning a foreign language may lead to low self esteem, which in turn ca affect the overall performance of an individual. However, (MacColl, 2005) notes that instead of development of high self esteem, learning a second language by learners with SEN may lead to low self esteem. This may happen when learners fear to make mistakes during participation of learning activities. The learners may feel anxious and unable to take part in any learning activity. They may end up abandoning learning the language (Gathercole and Pickering, 2001). Low self esteem may affect the learners overall performance. Learning a second language may therefore be a disadvantage to the learners with SEN (MacColl, 2005).

Another benefit of learning a second language by learners with SEN is that it leads to cultural awareness (EC, 2005). Students with SEN education needs are faced with a lot of limitations. They may not be able to have a lot of interaction with other people because of their diverse limitations. Through learning a foreign language, learners with SEN become more aware culturally. Through learning a foreign language, they understand that there is a difference between the culture they practice and other cultures found in countries abroad. This happens because learning a language involves learning of the culture and way of life of the people who speak that particular language that one is learning. This helps in broadening the learner’s perspective of various things and can be a very exciting experience especially for the students, who have never had a chance to travel to another country. Learning a new language for students with SEN helps them to improve their language skills.

Their have been calls, however, for institutions to include these students in foreign language programs. Some of the special needs include oral impairments for these students, and learning of such a language will double to improve their oral skills. The students only have to understand that they will have to work harder and probably take longer to learn, but they will learn the language (Wedin, 2010).

For some students with special needs, learning a foreign language may be easier than the native language due to phonological differences between languages. When this is the case, it becomes advantageous for these students to learn the language as it will boost their morale and motivate them to learn more. They will feel as part of the larger general group and are likely to fit in mainstream activities well (Salters, Neil & Wright, 1998).

On the other hand, learning such foreign language may be disadvantageous to students with special needs. It is almost true in all cases that foreign languages are more difficult than first languages. Some students with disability in learning effective speech in their first language have been found to have revived the problem once they enroll for foreign languages. Professor Dinklage of Harvard University established this problem with his language class in the 1960s. Learning a foreign language for both students with and without special needs makes them anxious. This has disastrous effects on both pair, but more on those with special needs who are more emotionally unstable than the others (Salters, Neil & Wright, 1998).

Learning a foreign language for these children possess a greater risk of stress and difficult in their experience at school. They will need to work harder at mastering a foreign language, while they probably have not mastered their own native language. This is likely to cause them psychological trauma and some may react badly by becoming rebellious, violent, or retreating to their own selves out of fear of failure (Wedin, 2010).

It is a mixed expectation for teachers and instructors to include modern languages in curricular for students with special needs. To a lesser extent, some students do well in mastering the language, and to a larger extent, most do not. This is because most of these students could already be having difficulties with their native language. Research has established a link between one’s ability to master one’s native language with his ability to master a foreign language. This means that these children are already disadvantaged in their efforts to learn a foreign language (Wedin, 2010).


This section has shed some light on the fact that people are different and no two people are exactly alike. Consequently, every individual has their own unique needs that may not be identical to the other person’s needs. Learning of a modern language is important for a learner with SEN as it is to learners in mainstream schools (MacColl, 2000). Learning of a foreign language is a lengthy process for all those who would like to become proficient in the language. Knowledge of a foreign language helps to boost one’s self esteem leading to increased confidence by the individual. A person with positive self esteem and confidence is able to achieve a lot in whatever task they are doing. This is what happens when learners with SEN are introduced to a foreign language. Their self esteem improves and they are able to improve in their performance overall. Learning of a foreign language also helps in the development of language skills. These skills are important because they contribute greatly to the learning of other skills in life. When teachers are involved in teaching foreign language to learners with SEN, they will probably focus their attention on each learner individually. This means that the overall performance of the learners is likely to improve.

Problems in Teaching Language to Students with Special Education Needs in the U.K


Teaching a language is one of the challenging tasks that teachers are faced with during their career in teaching. The challenge becomes worse when they are required to teach a language to children with special educational needs since they are required to go an extra mile to ensure that the concepts they are teaching have been understood. Since it is the right of every child to receive quality education without discrimination, the teachers have no choice but look for ways to deal with the challenges encountered during the teaching of a language to children with SEN. It is essential for all those concerned to articulately address the needs of students with special education needs. Those concerned include the children’s parents, teachers, government through educational policies, and the society at large. All these need to support such children in all ways possible so as to address their special needs and make them feel as normal members of general society (Daniels & Hedegaard, 2011).

Problems in Teaching Language to Students with Special Education Needs in the U.K

There are teachers for such special students in the UK who can teach these students in ways best suited for their conditions. The problem that teachers face, however, is inclusion. According to Miles & Singal (2010), inclusion requires that these students learn with those without special needs in similar circumstances fully or partly. Such a situation requires that teachers pay less specialized attention to students with special needs or uses less specialized facilities and approaches in teaching. This means that these students are likely to lag behind others in learning language (Daniels & Hedegaard, 2011).

Some teachers lack the right information on how to effectively teach such students. Language is particularly difficult because besides recognizing the letters, a learner has to pronounce them well. With the evolution of technology, more resources are available on how best to customize learning to fit each student’s needs. According to the multiple intelligences theory of learning, each student has their special learning prevalence. It is up to the teacher to identify each student’s learning needs and avail the best suited approach in teaching. Some of the methods include using visuals, sound, printed words, motion, color, instructions, and regalia among others (Daniels & Hedegaard, 2011).

Parents also create an impediment to their children’s learning process (Miles & Singal, 2010). Many parents find it difficult to accept that their children have special educational needs. They also view special educational facilities as discriminatory to their children, and have been on the fore front fighting for total inclusion. Due such denial, they fail to offer them the necessary support to enable them learn language. They will deny them special attention assuming that they are normal and will do with normal learning. This way, the students are denied special assistance and attention to enable them learn well (Wedin, 2010).

According to Hunt (2005), some schools deter their special students’ effective learning of language. It is true that according to the multiple intelligences theory various students posses different learning capabilities using different methods. Some schools, however, do not share their view and believe that students with similar difficulties can learn in similar ways. They, therefore, do not provide specialized material and curricular for various learning strategies for their students. To this extent, such schools do not support the learning process for these students (Daniels & Hedegaard, 2011).

The government, being the major policy maker, has a role to play in ensuring that students with special educational needs get the required support for their learning process (Hunt, 2005). The current government has failed to come up with viable policies regarding such students. Presidential hopefuls have used this as a campaign strategy that has never materialized. With the closure of special schools under the idea of inclusion, the government has done little to cater for the special needs of these students in general schools to meet their special needs. The most recent blow to supporting these children is in the government’s encouraging of the establishment of independent secondary schools that will have the authority to select their own students. This means that students with special needs will be locked out of the selection process due to their poor performance in languages and other subjects (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009).

Since 1997, labor lobby groups have facilitated the closure of nearly hundred institutions of special learning. While they agitate for inclusion, they have failed to address extreme needs for students with special needs that cannot be handled in general education set up and by general teachers (Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2009).

It is for these reasons that students with special needs continues to perform poorly despite improved technology and innovative ways of teaching (Hunt, 2005). Education for these students is a tug of war between parents, teachers and the government, and to date, no viable solution that shows improved performance for the students has been reached at.

Inclusion is advocated for by many, especially parents to children with special needs, because putting these students together alone will further impede the learning process. They lack the guidance from others who may be better than them. Besides, their syllabus is much simpler than that of general learning, meaning that their level of education is likely to be lower than that of others (Hunt, 2005).

To some extent, inclusion plays to the disadvantage of the children with special education needs. These children require, at most times, special facilities and methods of instruction from those in general classrooms. Because of the lack of these facilities, such children lag behind the learning process, presenting a worse scenario than if they were taught in different classrooms using different facilities and learning methods (Reindal, 2010).

Another issue arising from inclusion is conflict on the legibility of admission of students into special programs. Parents of students with mild conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks protest against their children being put special programs, believing that such conditions can be treated. On the other hand, parents may feel that their children’s conditions require them to be put on special program, while school administration thinks otherwise (Kvalsund & Velsvik, 2010).


There are numerous problems that are encountered while trying to teach a foreign language to children with SEN in the UK. These problems arise from various quarters such as from the parents, government, other stakeholders or the teachers who teach these children. Some of the teachers lack enough knowledge on how to effectively teach children with SEN a language while others feel incompetent to do so. This makes the teaching of a language very difficult. Some schools fail to offer children with SEN enough support to help them learn a language effectively. For example, they withhold the necessary materials that these learners need to facilitate learning of a language. The existing government policies do not adequately address the educational needs of children with special educational needs which make them feel neglected and fail to receive quality education.

What can be truly expected with the inclusion of modern languages in special needs curriculum?

While it is in good faith to fully include modern languages for these students in general curricular, I don’t think it is a workable approach. It is a fact that these students have special needs that have to be handled in a special way. Although for parents who have children with SEN, inclusion seems to be a way to make them feel that their children are not special, in realty, the system seems to affect the children more negatively than positively. This is because in most cases, they are not able to learn at par with the others (Miles & Singal, 2010). Parents and the government should appreciate this fact and provide special schools with more facilities to cater for the special needs of the students rather than trying to assume to obvious. Inclusion of modern languages in special needs curriculum, without providing the necessary facilities, would be very burdensome to both the teachers and the learners.


The learning process takes place in different ways among different students. Special attention needs to be given to individual students, especially those with special learning needs, so that special learning procedures are used for each of them. This is achieved through a number of learning styles that are adaptable for different needs of various students with regard to the capacity of their working memory. There are various theories that are useful in teaching learners with SEN. This is because; each person is different in their genetic make up and their way of doing things. According to the multiple intelligence theory, there is no single intelligence or mind. Each individual possesses a set of abilities that is referred to as intelligences by the multiple intelligence theory. These intelligences are the main cause of individual differences in terms of what one is able to do and what one is not able to very well. This theory can be used to effectively teach a foreign language to learners with SEN.

The other theory that teachers can use to teach learners with special educational needs a foreign language is the working memory theory. Scholars have discovered that poor working memory, not one’s intelligence level is responsible for poor performance. This is because, it is the working memory that is responsible for storing and retrieving information that one has learnt. A poor working memory means that one is not able to store and retrieve any information that the person has learnt. In the case of learning a modern language, the working memory is very important. Learners with special educational needs who suffer from a poor working memory cannot effectively learn a modern language because of this difficulty. Teachers should strive to identify learners with such needs and look for suitable means of teaching them modern languages. Teachers should also offer such learners special attention in order for them to understand what they are being taught.

The practice of teaching these students, however, has not been very smooth in the United Kingdom. It faces a number of problems and challenges form the stakeholders in different measures. Language, in particular, presents a unique problem for the students as this is the mode of expression and most disorders affects one’s working memory, which in turn affect his ability to communicate effectively.

Although teaching learners with SEN a foreign language has a lot of benefits, it also has some disadvantages. These learners are likely to be discouraged whenever they compare their performance in the modern language they are learning with that of other learners in mainstream schools. Some scholars also argue that learning modern languages is not very beneficial to learners with SEN. Instead of being taught foreign languages, these scholars propose that they should be taught something else that is more beneficial to them. Compared to learners in mainstream schools, learners with SEN require more time and effort to learn the same concept in foreign languages. Some scholars believe that learning a second language by learners with SEN is not worth the effort and the time that is spent during this process (MacColl, 2005). Therefore, this time and effort used can be invested in other things that can easily be grasped by these learners.

Although there are numerous proponents of the idea that learners with SEN should be taught foreign languages, it is a very challenging task. Most of the people view it as burdensome to the teachers and also as a subject that is irrelevant in the curriculum. Teachers do not feel very comfortable introducing foreign languages to learners with SEN. Those who introduce this subject to this group of learners feel that they are not competent enough to effectively teach learners with SEN a foreign language (EC, 2005). Although this is what most of the teachers in this field claim, some scholars are of a different opinion. They believe that the problem is not that the teachers lack competence to teach this group, on the contrary, they lack a clear understanding of the needs and inclinations of learners with SEN thereby making it hard for them to effectively teach these learners.

It is important for the curriculum that is used to teach foreign languages to learners with SEN to be upgraded in order for it to accommodate the diverse needs of these learners. This is because a foreign language has several benefits to this group of learners as discussed in paper. It is the right of all learners to be taught foreign languages without discrimination. According to EC (2005), learning of foreign languages by learners with SEN should be encouraged because it helps this group of learners to build up other life skills needed to live a comfortable life. It should not be assumed that learners with SEN cannot benefit from learning a foreign language. Although they may not be as proficient as their counterparts in mainstream schools, learners with SEN should not be alienated during the teaching of foreign languages because it has other numerous benefits to them (MacColl, 2000).

In the UK, parents, the government, and labor groups seem favor and advocate for inclusion in the educational sector. This has improved these students’ learning abilities, and on the other hand, made the process more difficult for them because of their special needs. Learning institutions, in an effort to include these students in the general learning curricular, have included learning of foreign language. This has also proved to be both beneficial to some students, and detrimental to some because of the added task of mastering a language they are not familiar with. Problems of these students learning language are a complex result of failed efforts by teachers, parents, schools, government, and lobby groups.

A more inclusive curriculum should also be developed to ensure that the individual needs of all learners are catered for. There are fears also that such including such students fully in general curricular will impede the learning process of the other typical students. This is because teachers and instructors of a classroom with included students will have to modify the syllabus to cater for the special needs of the children. This is likely to slow down the learning of the other students (Reindal, 2010).

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