The Helen Doron ESL/EFL methodology benefits all children, even those with a variety of organic learning challenges.
Developed by linguistic scientist, Helen Doron, over 30 years ago and supported by a multidisciplinary team, the unique Helen Doron methodology has also been found to enhance language learning for children with special needs.
The Helen Doron method was developed to teach English as a foreign language to children of all ages in a fun, engaging and stress-free environment— easily and naturally in the same way they learn their mother tongue. In fact, many of the 130,000 children that learn with the Helen Doron method every year claim that what they enjoy best about their Helen Doron English classes are the music and games they play during the lessons. Their parents are equally amazed by how easily and effortlessly their children are learning to speak English.
“Over the years we have found that our classes also benefit children with various physical and mental challenges. For me this was an especially pleasing discovery”, recall Ms. Doron, founder and CEO. “And when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. When you boil it down, all children’s basic needs are primarily the same. The need to feel loved and cared for, the need to grow and develop, the need for social interaction and acceptance, the need for accomplishment.” When a child learns to understand and speak English, the sense of accomplishment has a profound impact on their well-being.”
Many of the Helen Doron English teachers around the world reported that they have worked with children with learning challenges— students who always saw themselves as ‘different’ from those around them and were comforted to learn of a wider world with many cultures and norms in which everyone could be different and valued. Some of them told us how the methodology enhances the lives of children, making them feel more competent and successful both in and out of the classroom.
Research shows that bilingualism, even partial bilingualism, has a multitude of beneficial effects on brain development and function. When it comes to learning multiple languages, the important thing to remember is that all children, regardless of ability, have the potential to learn more than one language. Children who are exposed to multiple languages from birth, or in early childhood, are more likely to be dual language speakers. These children have increased abilities to communicate with more people, and the same is true for children with special needs.
An excellent example is Gabriel, a 7-year-old autistic boy from Mexico whose mother enthusiastically related how Helen Doron English “Jump with Joey” classes helped her son, “Gabriel doesn’t learn like other children and Helen Doron classes have helped him. He was very excited about the ‘Hello My World!’ save the orangutan campaign and was very happy to get involved. His video received 82,000 votes which made him feel very good about himself! Autistic children are often bullied and I believe barriers are only in our minds. ”
Tihana Uzelac, Helen Doron English teacher and franchisee from Zagreb, Croatia told us, “Children with special needs, in addition to the challenges of everyday life, often face the problem of social marginalization. Parents with special needs children often thank us for opening our doors and providing them with an opportunity to learn when others were not willing to do so. Working in small groups and in a stimulating environment is what our students benefit from the most. The structure of our classes, a multitude of different activities which enable every child to demonstrate all their knowledge and skills and a lot of fun games allow each child to feel comfortable and enjoy the lesson. Although most parents who have a child with special needs come primarily with the aim of improving their child’s social skills, all of our parents are positively and pleasantly surprised with the progress their children show in regards of English language acquisition. While working in a group with a child with special needs requires some adjustments, we consider it a welcoming challenge and an opportunity for us to learn something new and become better teachers, and also better people. ”
Snjezana Javurek, Helen Doron teacher from Velika Gorica, Croatia, added, “In our experience, children with special needs can benefit from the Helen Doron method. Owing to the cheerful and relaxing atmosphere in our school, the students do not feel that attending class is a boring and tedious task that needs to be completed, so they do not exhibit any unwillingness to learn. In time, the children who were at first reluctant to participate started showing their interest in the activities in the lesson, as well as in other students in their group. Games and exercises that we do in class require peer interactions which help develop emotional and social skills in children. They learn how to communicate with each other, cooperate, consult with each other, accept other group members and respect the opinions of others, as well as how to deal with certain emotions (happiness as a result of winning a game, anger and/or disappointment as a result of losing a game). The activities in class switch rapidly, which helps the students stay focused. In class we regularly engage in kinaesthetic activities where children have a chance to “let off steam” i.e. satisfy their need to move, thus allowing us to hold their attention. This ultimately facilitates knowledge acquisition. When the children feel relaxed and safe, they are willing to use English. Even though at first they merely repeat certain words/phrases/sentences, with a little bit of encouragement from the teacher, the children make an effort to express their thoughts and create their own sentences.”
Leior, a Helen Doron teacher from Israel, had similar experiences with the “Botty the Robot” special needs class she worked with recently, “This was a joyful experience. They had so much enthusiasm to learn English, they were eager to work hard and learn everything I had to teach them. They arrived every week excited to participate in the lessons and also spent a lot of time practicing at home. They enjoyed the whole concept of the lesson; playing games, singing songs, group competitions, working in the workbooks, etc. They were never bored, always engaged in each activity, taking it very seriously and working hard to succeed.”
Language enables individuals to engage socially, initially within their families, and later in an ever-widening network of relationships and cultural experiences. Such experiences create a sense of belonging and enhance general well-being. Language enables children to give expression to their feelings, ideas, and concerns. This is equally important for children with learning disabilities who can take advantage of an additional language to better communicate and find their places in the world, and the Helen Doron method makes learning English possible for everyone.