The use of familiar language to enhance reading skills in learners with intellectual disabilities in primary schools in southern province of Zambia.

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Kasebula, Francis
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The University of Zambia
The Ministry of General Education introduced the Primary Language Policy (PLP) in the 2013 revised curriculum framework that promotes the use of a familiar language in the lower grades (1-4) with a view to address the low reading levels among learners in the lower grades as established by most researchers in the country. However, although most research has revealed that the use of familiar language enhances the development of emergent literacy skills among learners in the lower grades, there is no empirical evidence that the use of familiar language enhances literacy to learners with intellectual disabilities. Based on this premise, this study sought to investigate the reading levels of learners with intellectual disabilities with the goal of examining the extent to which the use of familiar language has addressed reading skills of learners with Intellectual Disabilities and if not, to suggest effective strategies. The study was a longitudinal design, conducted from 2018 September to 2019 September. The goal of a longitudinal design was to track the changes and progression of the learners since the same sample was repeatedly studied. This repeated study on the learners helped to establish the cause effect of teaching reading in a familiar language. Qualitative and quantitative research methods were used. A mixed research method was thought befitting in the sense that it captures both the ontological and epistemological assumption to the study. The belief and value of this triangulation is that knowledge is a social construct and as such, the use of the familiar language which is used in social interactions is perceived to enhance the acquisition of reading skills when learners are taught in a language they are familiar with. Considering the research objective and the theoretical frame work, a constructivism/interpretivism philosophical assumption was the underpinning of this research. The belief is that knowledge is created through social interaction and interpreted by people and experienced by people through their interactions with each other. The conceptual frame work of the social cultural influence on learning, guided the study. Data collection was based on the following: Questionnaire for teachers teaching learners with intellectual disabilities, Basic Skills vi Assessment Tool (BASAT) was administered to learners with intellectual disabilities, structured interview schedule was used for parents and head teachers from the selected schools and observation of the learning environment in the selected schools. Quantitative data was analysed by the use of IBM SPSS 25 version while qualitative data was analyzed by drawing themes from the data collected through the questionnaires administered to teachers and interview schedules for head teachers and parents. The results of the research revealed that there is a significant difference in the reading levels between the first data collected in English and the second through the use of a familiar language. However, it was noticed that the familiar language predominantly spoken in the area, is not familiar to some learners with intellectual disabilities, hence affecting their acquisition of the reading skills. The other factor affecting the enhancement of reading skills to learners with intellectual disabilities is lack of adequate and appropriate teaching and learning aids (LTA). It was observed that there is a serious shortage of reading materials in most schools sampled for the study. This inadequacy is a contributing factor to the low reading levels among learners with intellectual disabilities. Thirdly, some teachers have significant challenges teaching effectively using the familiar language as the language barrier is still a factor that affects the teaching of reading. Learners with intellectual disabilities also showed significant challenges on tasks to do with syllable segmentation and phonological awareness. The conclusion of the study was that the use of a familiar language to teach reading skills to learners with intellectual disabilities revealed that there is a significant improvement in their reading skills. Finally, but not the least, the researcher recommends the implementation of the sound letter object identification strategy of teaching phonological awareness to learners with intellectual disabilities in a familiar language as opposed to letter sound knowledge teaching strategy and the use of a multidimensional teaching of reading approach. Key words: Familiar language, intellectual disability, reading skills, learners, teaching strategies, parental involvement.
Language policy--Zambia. , Reading comprehension. , Executive ability in children. , Language and education--Zambia.