Preference for language of instruction for students with developmental disabilities who come from Spanish-speaking families




Aguilar, Jeannie Marie

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Preference evaluations have been used to determine children’s preferences, for reinforcers, consequences and even preferred instructional strategies. English Language Learners (ELLs) with developmental disabilities (DD) are a quickly growing population and the application of these assessments may be useful in determining preference for language of instruction. This dissertation includes two studies with the purpose of determining whether preference assessments could be used to establish a preference for language of instruction in children with DD who come from Spanish speaking homes. In the first study, a concurrent chains method was used to evaluate a child’s preference for English vs. Spanish instruction. Three colored (blue, green, and yellow) micro switches were used to represent English instruction, Spanish instruction and control (no language) followed by a preferred reinforcer after instruction. Exposure trials were used to teach the chains for each micro switch. Choice sessions were then implemented. All three switches were placed in front of the child and the child was allowed to choose a switch which then initiated the chain associated with that particular switch. After the 10th session switches were reprogrammed to prevent a bias for a specific color and preference procedures were then rerun to see if the preference for language remained. Results from the assessment showed that the child chose Spanish instruction most often. He continued to choose Spanish instruction after switches were reprogrammed. In study two, an ABAB design was utilized to assess the effects of task difficulty on preference for language of instruction. Five children with DD participated in home or school settings. The concurrent chains assessment from the first study was utilized as the preference assessment. Tasks included mastered task (easy) and non-mastered tasks (difficult) from the children’s IEPs. Results for study two indicated that task difficulty had an effect on the preference for language of instruction. Four out of five of the children showed no clear preference for language of instruction when tasks were easy, however they showed a distinct preference for language of instruction when tasks were difficult. Discussion on results of the studies, implications for practice in working with ELLs with DD, and directions for future research are presented.



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