Federal law requires schools, colleges, and universities to provide reasonable accommodations for students who have documented learning disabilities such as dyslexia (commonly called a Specific Learning Disability). Many of these students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities need a foreign language requirement to be modified. A common accommodation is a foreign language exemption, waiver or modification.
What are Foreign Language Exemptions, Waivers and Modifications?
Over the years I have heard a few terms that have been used to describe foreign language accommodations in education. Here is a quick review:
- A foreign language exemption: Some state laws provide mandates that a student with a disability that adversely affects the ability to learn a language may be exempted from these requirements.
- A foreign language waiver: Some schools choose to "waive" a foreign language requirement and allow a course substitution that is approved by their foreign language department.
- A foreign language modification: Other schools offer a modified curriculum, with a highly skilled instructor. Most students with learning disabilities can complete a semester or two of modified foreign language study.
What are Some Other Foreign Language Options?
If a foreign language is required, here are two other possibilities:
- Take a sign language course: Sign language is a highly tactile and visual language and many students with dyslexia find it to be a relatively easy course.
- Ask about a foreign language substitution: Instead of learning a language, some schools allow students to opt into learning about the culture of another country.
So How Can You Teach Dyslexic Learners Another Language?
Because there are numerous types of dyslexia and each student with dyslexia has their own unique profile, it is important to let the student decide whether they want to try to learn a foreign language. I've seen plenty of students with dyslexia master another language. I have also witnessed students who have extreme language-based disabilities that warrant a foreign language exemption or waiver. If a student with dyslexia chooses to pursue another language, here are some strategies that can help:
- Offer reasonable accommodations: For a full list and discussion on accommodating students with dyslexia in the classroom CLICK HERE.
- Don't take off points for spelling errors: Because dyslexia impacts a students spelling, it is important not to degrade them for mistakes caused by their disability.
- Provide a word bank for tests: A word bank is a set of words made available to pupils to support them with their writing. It may contain words specific to the type of text they are writing, or words which they are learning to spell in their work.
- Using tricks to master verbs and grammar: I like to create tables with the parts of speech and grammar content students need to learn. One is filled out with the answers and others are empty. See the example to the right. Students can place the empty tables into a dry erase pocket and test themselves. They can also implement memory strategies to help them access the content during a test.
- Use memory strategies to assist with learning vocabulary: I often help my students with their foreign language courses by teaching them both auditory and visual memory strategies. The image to the right illustrates three examples.
- Find strategies on Youtube: YouTube is an amazing resource that offers a multitude of strategies from teachers and students singing melodies and acting goofy with academic content to comprehensive lessons that allow students to review the content at any time.
- Duolingo: This is an online site that many students like to use to learn foreign languages. They purport that, "gamification is poured into every lesson."
- Make games: You can make your own games, find purchasable games on Teacher Pay Teachers, or you can select from some online options presented below.
What are some other online sites for learning a foreign language?1. Digital Dialects
3. Hello World
4. Polly Lingual
I hope you found this helpful. Reach out any time!Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.
Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren, Learning Specialist & Educational Therapist
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