Trissomia 21
: aprendizagem de uma segunda língua : estudo de caso

  • Mónica Pereira Gomes (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Children with Down Syndrome show some limitations due to their genetic condition (additional chromosome), affecting their functionality profiles as well as their ability to learn. However, depending on the level of the referred limitations, these may not be deterrent to learning a second language. As stated in the literature, the execution of suitable teaching strategies to the learning mode and rhythm of these children is vital to ensure the success in learning. In this context, the applied teaching approaches usually used with children without Down Syndrome are often considered adverse to the learning of children with the Syndrome. This dissertation, entitled Down syndrome and the learning of a second language, focuses on this problematic. It aims at assessing the potential of a child with Down Syndrome who speaks Portuguese learning a foreign language, in this case English, when subjected to similar learning conditions as the ones used with children without the same limitations. A case study methodology was selected during the course of this investigation centered on a nine years old (chronological age) child with Down Syndrome, characterized namely by his social, economic and family context, functional diagnosis and school progress. The teaching and learning process was developed in 20 private sessions, one hour weekly. During these sessions six lexical themes were taught which integrate the set of themes usually taught by the researcher in a beginner’s EFL class to children without Down Syndrome within the Atividades de Enriquecimento Curricular (AEC). The extension of each theme, the pace of its presentation, the methodologies, the strategies and the materials used were similar to those typically used with identical cognitive age children without Down Syndrome. The results regarding the child’s performance were collected using an observation grid containing both speaking and listening learning objectives and long and short term memory, assessed by the way tasks were performed. The observation grid also includes behavioral objectives, assessed on a frequency scale. The analysis of the results demonstrate that the performance of the participant in this case study is similar to those typically displayed by children without Down Syndrome, namely with regard to the number of words learnt and listening comprehension. However, the participant revealed some difficulty in the articulation of some words in speaking, a direct result from the difficulties usually presented by the participant in the child’s mother tongue. The results obtained during this study reveal that in the long run the participant may be capable of acquiring enough knowledge to communicate in a very simple way, provided that the interlocutor is willing to repeat or use other words at a slower pace, and help the child formulate what she would like to say. Being capable of orally interacting in such a manner, the participant would achieve an A1 speaking level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Date of Award19 Sept 2012
Original languagePortuguese
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorJosé Afonso Baptista (Supervisor)


  • Down syndrome
  • Learning
  • Second language
  • Communication


  • Mestrado em Ciências da Educação

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