Reading Disabilities in Arab Students Attending Non-Arabic Schools Term Paper

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Education, Reading Disorders

Reading disabilities in Arab students attending non-Arabic schools

Reading disabilities pose one of the greatest threats to a child's learning, since all other subjects become reliant on comprehension as education progresses. English as a second language (ESL) students have additional needs, since their knowledge of language has been shaped differently than children who speak English as their native language. Arabic children in particular may struggle in the English-speaking classroom because of the drastically different systems of speech, reading, and learning in English and Arabic language. Further, some evidence exists that Arabic children suffer from reading disabilities more often than other children due to consanguineous marriages. Due to these possible genetic issues, cultural and language differences, and the struggles inherent in all ESL students, Arabic children attending non-Arabic schools may be more likely to struggle with reading disabilities than other children. This paper intends to investigate these factors and how they might contribute to learning disabilities in Arab students attending non-Arabic schools.

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To address this topic, this paper will first address the necessary background information. Research and information concerning reading disabilities are provided to create a base knowledge and consider how these fit into the individual focus of This paper. Discussion of the problems and challenges posed by teaching ESL students, whether Arabic-speaking or otherwise, is discussed. Finally, research specific to Arabic-speaking children in non-Arabic schools will be evaluated. Please note that ESL (English as a Second Language) should be considered synonymous with English Language Learner (ELL) and other terms frequently used to describe children whose native language is any language other than English.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Reading Disabilities in Arab Students Attending Non-Arabic Schools Assignment

Background: What we know about reading disabilities number of learning disabilities exist that can affect a child's ability to read. For the needs of this paper, a reading disability is considered to be a rough term for developmental dyslexia. A common misconception is that individuals with dyslexia words reversed or mixed up on the page (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007). This is untrue; developmental dyslexia is a neuro-biological problem that causes individuals to have poor word decoding skills and inaccurate word recognition. As a result, reading and spelling are heavily affected. While developmental dyslexia is not caused by poverty, learning English as a second language, or speech/hearing impairment, those issues can exacerbate the problem. What is known about causes of dyslexia is that there is a positive genetic link, meaning that it can run in families (Davis, Lindo, & Compton, 2007; Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007; Abu-Rabia & Maroun, 2005). Additionally, because it is a physical problem located in the brain it is not curable and children do not "grow out of it." It is estimated that 2.8 million school-aged children in the United States suffer from developmental dyslexia (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007).

Developmental dyslexia is one of the most common reasons for a child to be diagnosed with a learning disability. It affects 80% of those considered learning disabled (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007). While teachers are increasingly trained to handle some of the issues inherent in teaching students with learning disabilities, reading difficulty caused by developmental dyslexia can be frustrating for both teachers and students (Lipka, Siegel, & Vukovic, 2005). This is due in part to the intensive reliance that all other classroom studies have on reading as children progress to upper grade levels. This fact makes it crucially important that children with developmental dyslexia be diagnosed as early as possible (Davis, Lindo, & Compton, 2007; Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007).

Diagnosing children early is key to ensuring their academic success. Studies to establish brain imaging to positively identify developmentally disabled individuals have been met with mixed results; too many false negatives or false positives were indicated in a number of studies (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007). Even if methods were perfected, the MRI technology necessary would be costly and trained staff would be needed to interpret results. Despite these frustrations, a number of the studies on brain imaging have made it possible to study some of the differences between the brains of average learners and those of individuals developmental dyslexia (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007).

In the absence of a medical test, teachers and researchers look for other signs that students may have developmental dyslexia (Abu-Rabia & Maroun, 2005). Children with reading disabilities often exhibit two difficulties. First, they cannot read or recognize as many words as are expected for their age level. Second, they have difficulty decoding words and often experience a number of decoding errors during reading (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007). Due to decoding errors, reading becomes painfully slow and laborious. Children are often unable to gather contextual information or answer content information, even from short, age-appropriate passages because so much time is spent decoding individual words that meaning is lost (David, Lindo, & Compton, 2007; Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007).

The impact that a reading disability has on students and teachers is significant (Davis, Lindo, & Compton, 2007). Without identification, students who are unable to progress often act out or fall behind other students in their grade level. Even when children are identified as having a reading disability, resources may not be available to give them the attention they need to manage their disability effectively. This is especially true in crowded classrooms or classrooms with multiple learning disabled or ESL children. Additionally, children with a reading disability may suffer from other disorders, including Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. These issues may make identification more difficult (David, Lindo, & Compton, 2007; Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007).

Once identified, children with developmental dyslexia need "explicit, intense, systematic instruction in the sound structure of language (phonemic awareness)" including phonics (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007, p.512). Motivation and encouragement are also important, as children with reading disabilities must work very hard to reach normal levels of reading. Teachers working with reading disabled children are encouraged to assess individual language processing for those children in order to identify weaknesses and apply appropriate instruction. Keeping students engaged in classroom activities in additionally important to foster participation rather than loss of attention, apathy, and failure due to disinterest (Hudson, High, & Al Otaiba, 2007).

Reading disabilities and the ESL learner

ESL learners, unlike children with reading disabilities, struggle because they are adapting to the use of a new language. Unless they also have a learning disability, ESL students do not have a physical problem preventing them from achieving in the classroom. This being said, ESL require specific tools in order to transition from their native language into becoming fluent readers and speakers of English (Drucker, 2003). Drucker (2003) suggests the incorporation of tools that are geared for ESL students but provide substantial learning opportunities for native English speakers as well.

ESL learners come to the English classroom with a wide range of ability and English experience. Some students speak no English at all. Others manage orally but struggle with reading and writing in English. Wide debate exists as to what approaches should be used to address the needs of these students (Drucker, 2003). Many studies have also been conducted in order to identify the best ways to proceed. The bulk of available research in the United States focuses on Spanish-speaking children, due to the high number entering schools across the country. The issue of ESL learners is much larger than Spanish speakers, however; in urban areas teachers are increasingly reporting classrooms with four or five different native languages spoken. This poses a problem not only in terms of attention to ESL needs but to developing curriculums that can reach over a number of cultural barriers (Lipka, Siegel, & Vukovic, 2005; Drucker 2003).

Children with limited English language skills often experience confusion and frustration in the English-speaking classroom. In classrooms with a small number of ESL students, children are keenly aware of their minority status and may be reluctant to participate or ask for help when they need it. They may be shy or self-conscious, causing them to make anxiety-related mistakes. Obvious issues also exist where children simply do not understand instructions and information when given in English (Lipka, Siegel, & Vukovic, 2005; Drucker 2003). Alternately, in classrooms that are heavily populated with ESL students, children may feel no pressure to learn English language skills. Since others who speak their native language surround them, children may not develop the English vocabulary and speaking practice necessary to succeed academically.

Vocabulary is one of the largest challenges for ESL students (Drucker, 2003). Students who begin school with almost no exposure to the English language are likely to do poorly in areas of working vocabulary, syntactic testing, and verbal memory testing (Lipka, Siegel, & Vukovic, 2005). Children build an early vocabulary based on words they hear and use in conversation. Most ESL students have limited English language vocabularies, though their native language vocabulary may be strong. Others do not have a strong vocabulary even in their native language, posing additional challenges because teachers have difficulty explaining… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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