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Room full of students talking and sitting at their desks in small groups with blue books on their desk and pens in hand.

Teaching English as a Second Language to Students with Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities (LDs) may struggle in a language classroom, but ultimately reap the same benefits as others.
Consider viewing our discussion on the definition of a learning disability as well as methods of identification by referring to the related resources section at the bottom of this page.

According to Ann Sax Mabbott, who has provided case studies of several students with LDs, many achieve success as language learners and even become foreign language teachers.

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International students sitting and smiling on bleachers at sports game.

Accommodations for Non-Native English Speakers

“Do international students get extra time? Is being a non-native English speaker a disability?” This question comes up frequently from international students and disability service offices.  At first thought, many offices would easily say “no” and “no." Should it be that easy?

Many academic departments and student service offices may initially assume that issues arise solely from being a non-native English speaker, but it may also mean that a disability is not recognized, and a second look should be given to these students.

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Young foreign student with mobility disability talks with an advisor

Knowing What Disability Questions to Ask: Sample Accommodations Forms

Are you advising someone with a disability who is traveling abroad for your volunteer, study or professional program? Do you know what questions to ask to assist them in preparing for travel and living abroad related to their disability?

These access information forms provide starting points to learn more about what may be needed. The advisor guidelines also help know what the individual's responses may mean and what follow-up questions you could ask. Download and adapt these for your own use; it may mean asking fewer questions on the forms and more in face to face conversations.

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A young woman using a manual wheelchair hangs onto the back of a young man's power wheelchair as he pulls her along a street.

Disability-Focused International Exchanges

As a person with a disability, you have the right to participate in the same international exchange opportunities as people who do not have disabilities. You may decide that you want to participate in an exchange program that is not specifically focused on the topic of disability, such as one focused on Japanese culture, public health, or the performing arts.

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A caucasian American man talks to a classroom of Chinese female students.

Getting the Conversation Started: Learning Disabilities

Ask detailed questions that help you understand the full nature of the program and the resources you need to fully participate. While international exchange staff may know more about the programmatic details and international contexts, disability-related staff may have more ideas about alternative accommodation possibilities that could add insight to the discussion. 

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In India, a beautiful scene of colors and candles is assembled on the ground.

Learning Disability Accommodations

Exchange professionals and faculty need to talk with the individual with the learning disability or attention deficit disorder and disability specialist to figure out what is needed as each person is different. If the individual does not have a learning disability diagnosis, then some of these practices may as be useful to try out to see if it helps to remediate issues the individual may be having.

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Rocks and sand are positioned in a zen garden.

What are Learning Disabilities?

Learning disability is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of information processing disorders that affects learning. People with learning disabilities may have difficulties with reading, math, writing, spatial orientation or other skills that are not caused by or related to another condition or disability.