Addressing Learning Disabilities in Intensive English Programs

4 international students sitting in desks next to each other looking up to the front of the classroom.
For many years, Maiko Hata of the American English Institute (AEI) at the University of Oregon in Eugene, would notice commonality between the students that were falling through the cracks.

Through meetings to discuss probation and disqualification status, to the discovery of learning disabilities in her own family, Maiko came to appreciate that the reason why so many students were struggling was most likely related to undiagnosed learning disabilities.

Something needed to be done if her program was going to take its work to the next level. After putting in place procedures to educate teachers, destigmatize, detect and diagnose learning disabilities, as well as partner with the university’s Accessible Education Center, things took a turn for the better.

“It’s fun to learn about approaches like universal design and differentiated learning, as they help not only the students with non-apparent disabilities who might never get diagnosed. It also helps students with other disabilities like blindness, deafness, epilepsy, and other conditions that require them to learn or focus in a different way.”

Learn about AEI’s proactive approach to support students with undiagnosed and diagnosed learning disabilities.


  • Integrate a system to help identify undiagnosed learning disabilities. Learn more about identification by connecting with learning disability specialists.
  • Build regular training and professional development opportunities for teachers on techniques for supporting struggling learners led experts in the field.
  • Create working groups to discuss strategies for universal design, differential learning, privacy and protection laws, and more.
  • Maintain record of what practices are working and re-visit to know how to continuously enhance support.


  • Include welcoming message to students with disabilities on all application and promotional materials.
  • Implement a process for providing reasonable accommodations in the classroom and through partnerships with the office for students with disabilities.
  • Create a system of peer tutors for students to review and reinforce what they learn in class.
  • Obtain access to assistive technology so that students with disabilities can make use of computer lab facilities and so that teachers can understand the technology that their students use to finish assignments.

Like this best practice? Find a designed version to download under Documents or share on social media by using buttons on this page.