Federal law requires schools, colleges and universities to provide reasonable accommodations for students who have documented learning disabilities. In order to be successful at the college level, many students with learning disabilities need to have the foreign language requirement modified.
With a controlled enrollment, a modified curriculum, concerted effort, and a highly skilled instructor, most students with learning disabilities can complete a semester or two of modified foreign language study.
Students with language-based learning disabilities, however, probably will not be successful beyond the first or second semester of foreign language instruction.
Many individuals with learning disabilities experience difficulty learning a foreign language. Learning disabilities adversely affect language-based tasks such as reading, spelling, writing, or listening in the person’s native language. Such problems tend to be magnified even further in the process of learning a foreign language.
Phonological difficulties (problem putting sounds together and pulling sounds apart in spoken and written language) and orthographic difficulties (problems with sound-symbol tasks in language) have the most immediate and severe impact on foreign language learning.
These types of abilities are necessary for the fundamental task of learning a new alphabet, such as Hebrew, or a new sound-symbol system, such as spelling the nasal sounds in French.
Who is At Risk? Individuals who experience delays in learning to speak, require speech therapy, have frequent ear infections during early childhood, had difficulty learning to read (especially phonics), struggle with spelling or demonstrate inconsistent use of grammar and writing mechanics, often have serious difficulties learning a foreign language. At the same time, an increasing number of individuals with learning disabilities are attending college. Supports and services vary widely, however, ranging from basic classroom and testing accommodations, to special sections of a foreign language, to foreign language waivers, to course substitutions.
Testing for learning disabilities to determine eligibility for foreign language waiver may include but not be limited to the following:
The evaluation must be conducted by a qualified diagnostician and must assess the current impact of disability. The standard college requirement for documentation verifying specific learning disabilities is that an evaluation report not be older than three years from the date of submission. Dr. Margaret J. Kay routinely performs comprehensive evaluations for learning disabled students to determine eligibility for foreign language waivers and/or special accommodations for high school and college foreign language courses.
Margaret J. Kay, Ed.D. Psychologist
Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP)
Licensed Psychologist in PA and DE
Fellow American College of Forensic Examiners in Educational and School Psychology
Lancaster Office Phone: (717) 569-6223