Tying Limited English Proficiency To Developmental Delays

Cathi Rodriguez and Kyle Higgins draw on the works of linguist and developmental psychologists alike for their article for Intervention in School and Clinic, called “Preschool Children with Developmental Delays and Limited English Proficiency.”

Basically Rodriguez and Higgins have prepared a comprehensive treatment on how help developmentally delayed students who are also learning English as their second language. The problem, as the describe it is that, “these young students have the unique challenge of typically no being proficient in their native language but being expected to learn a second language.


Before delving into a discussion on how to teach these students, the authors laid a ground work establishing the core theories of second language acquisition. We start with Jim Cummins and the two dimensions that he provides to the discourse. Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) “involve the informal language of conversation.” This playground talk is learned after 2 to 3 years. Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), on the other hand is taught through formal instruction, and takes 5 to 10 years to obtain. These two relate insofar as BICS is developed before CALP; the inference is that a student who hasn’t learned basic BICS is not prepared to move on to learning CALP.

Krashen’s Theory of Second-Language Acquisition offers two alternatives. His Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis states that there is basic subconscious level during which language is learned while growing. The learned system then builds off of this acquisition, though instruction of grammar and conscious efforts to learn. His Monitor Hypothesis goes further, suggesting that the acquisition is an utterance, and the learner then monitors these utterances before the speaker talks.


Through this understanding of how a person learns a second language, instructors can begin to understand how the process extends from existing skills in the original language. In short, “the ease with which students attain academic achievement in a second language is directly related to the strength of their native language achievement.” In other words, formal instruction in a native language increases the changes of proficient use of the adapted.

Rodriguez and Higgins’ conclusion is centered on the realization that ‘literacy skills or academic skills have been found to be transferable between the first and second languages. Thusly, when working with developmentally delayed students who are learning a second language, ideally instructors can teach in both languages, reinforcing cognitive, language, and social skills. Using a bilingual approach, teachers will be better able to vary their instruction, finding the balance that the Wiki suggests is necessary, between basic skill instruction and ‘age-appropriate social and language skills.’

This Page Create By Rachael Brown


Rodriguez, C., & Higgins, K. (2005, March). Preschool Children With Developmental Delays and Limited English Proficiency. Intervention in School & Clinic, 40(4), 236-242.
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