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This section of the site focuses on support for learners who may need additional help if they are to make the progress in foreign language learning of which they are capable. This includes learners who are described as having special educational needs.

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Gifted and talented

English as an additional language


Autism spectrum

Speech, language and
communication difficulties

Down's syndrome


Visual impairment

Other specialised needs

Why teach languages to learners with special needs?

Workshop 1 Why should we offer opportunities for second language learning to learners who are already struggling to master their first?

Who are these learners? What is meant by 'additional support'?

‘the new concept of additional support needs refers to any child or young person who, for whatever reason, requires additional support for learning. Additional support needs can arise from any factor which causes a barrier to learning, whether that factor relates to social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, disability, or family and care circumstances and learning environment.’
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004

Note that this definition is wider than the term 'special educational needs' in that it recognises that all learners can experience the need for additional help at some time in their lives. For some the need will be temporary, for others it will be of long duration.

According to the Education Inspectorate in Scotland:

The majority of children and young people experience temporary difficulties in learning which can be quickly remedied by additional help from the class or subject teacher, sometimes with the assistance of colleagues. A proportion of pupils, estimated at around 20%, have learning difficulties which are more intractable, but which respond to measures, such as through the assistance of a learning support specialist and/or some curricular adaptations. Between 1% and 2% of children and young people face difficulties in learning which are long term, require exceptional intervention and need to be kept under review by teachers, parents and other professionals. (EPSEN Report p.8, 1.3 - see below)

However, the EPSEN Report also says that:

... most special educational needs arise from curricular difficulties, such as gaining access to the curriculum... The causes of such difficulties are most likely to lie in mismatch between delivery of the curriculum and pupils' learning needs. (EPSEN P.8, I.3/4)

It is this last aspect of support that provides the focus for this group of pages, where we try to show what foreign language teachers can do to support learners who have recognised difficulties in achieving success.

Where possible, individual pages are introduced by recognised experts in their fields. Where expert advice has not been available weblinks are provided on each page to sources of information that may prove useful.



In too many cases, learners who experience difficulties in learning are deprived of opportunities to start, or to continue, learning a foreign language. Where access to language learning is also the gateway to cultural studies, of course, they lose those benefits too. It seems that teachers – and sometimes parents as well – are inclined to think that foreign language learning is too difficult for some learners and that it would be better for them to spend extra time improving their command of their mother tongue.

We are therefore delighted to publish on this site an article written for us by a young student who, with parental help, overcame the obstacles presented by her learning difficulties, persisted with her studies, gained entrance to university and is achieving an enviable level of success:
Dyspraxia, visual stress and foreign language learning

Other downloadable resources on this site suggest that most learners with difficulties can indeed benefit from experiences associated with foreign language learning. For example:
Extract from 'Modern Languages for All' H McColl

This page introduces the concept of additional support for learning. The following items provide links to general documentation and issues that concern many or all groups of learners with additional support needs.

[Links last checked 23.2.11 unless otherwise indicated]


The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (UNESCO 1994)
Commentary and document to download:

The Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013
A European programme that supports education and training across Europe

European Inclusion Initiative
Working to ensure that the European Lifelong learning programme is open and accessible to all.
Case studies include projects for adults on the autism spectrum or with behavioural problems, those with hearing impairments, homeless people, migrant workers, young people at risk, people with mental problems.

Mobility International USA: electronic mailing list
National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange E-News
Mobility International USA's electronic mailing list is for sharing information and resources that will encourage greater inclusion and increased participation of people with disabilities in international exchange programs. A monthly posting includes information about international exchange scholarships, disability resources worldwide, highlights of people's stories, new publications and much more. Announcements are inclusive of all disability types and all types of international exchange and development.

VIVACE – Voices for Inclusion, Voices for Access to Language Learning and Cultural Education
VIVACE aims to provide a route to the experience of language learning for disadvantaged groups and individuals and helps them overcome some of the barriers they face in engaging with their own immediate environment and with the idea of the linguistic variety of the European Union more broadly.
Guidelines for educational providers, organisations, charities, voluntary bodies, national and regional agencies, etc. working to improve the living experience of marginalised, disadvantaged and excluded young people and adults.




[7.12.11] Support Manual: Towards excellent support for children and young people
'Guidance to ensure that all managers and practitioners effectively meet the additional support needs of children and young people'. The document updates and builds on Effective Provision for Special Educational Needs and the Manual of Good Practice. As an introduction to ASN, it is well worth perusing. Although developed for Perth and Kinross Council, its comprehensive coverage of policy and practice makes it relevant throughout Scotland.

EFfective Provision for Special Educational Needs (EPSEN)
Published by HMIe in Scotland in 1994 but still relevant.

SQA Subject Guidance: Introduction to Assessment Arrangements
Links on the right provide general guidance:
Introduction to Assessment; Using Sign in SQA Exams; Assessment Arrangements Explained; Adapted Digital Question Papers; English as an Additional Language in SQA Exams; Quality Assurance; Assessment Arrangements Guide for Candidates; Assessment Arrangements Guide for Parents.

CALL Centre Scotland (Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning)
Specialist expertise in technology for children who have speech, communication and/or writing difficulties.
Information and resources on how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can make a major impact on the education of children and people with special educational and communication needs.

The National Framework for Inclusion

Learning and Teaching Scotland: Inclusion and Equality website

The University of Strathclyde's Teachability website publishes booklets for academic staff on how to make course content accessible for students with disabilities.

Learning and Teaching Scotland: Supporting learners

The National Framework – Supporting learners from early years to positive, sustained destinations

[3.3.11] HMIE and inclusion
Scotland: Why Inclusion?
Inclusion Reference Manual:

[15.10.11] Strategic review of learning provision for children and young people with complex additional support needs
The Doran Review interim report of 3/10/11 includes comprehensive background information on terminology, history of provision, legal issues, policy and practice in meeting additional suopport needs.

[23.12.11] Learning support for disabled social works and teaching students guide
A Guide for lecturers, tutors and others. Published by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.



Department for children, schools and families (DCFS)

Key Stage 2 Framework for languages Part 3: Section 4: Inclusion languages for all considers:
- teaching and supporting children with Special Educational Needs
- identifying an supporting linguistically able children
- teaching and supporting pupils for whom English is an additional language

Some quotations:

It is important that all children, including those with special educational needs, linguistically able children and children who are learning English as an additional language are integrated into language lessons and that their particular learning needs are fully supported.

Evidence suggests that children can operate in a new language at the same conceptual and linguistic level as in their own language; this ease of transference promotes general linguistic development.

National Strategies website: KS2 Framework for languages
Part 3 includes:
Section 3 Integrating languages into the rest of the curriculum
Section 4 Inclusion – Languages for all

Download the whole of Part 3 here:

Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) - Inclusion and Special Educational Needs
Effective, inclusive teaching helps all learners reach their full potential, whatever their needs.

The National Strategies – Inclusion
The Achievement For All project: Guidance for schools



Special Educational Needs in Europe: The Teaching and Learning of Languages: Insights and Innovation
European Commission, January 2005
The full 208-page report and a 6-page summary can be found at this address:

LINGO: 50 ways to motivate language learners
This EU study is available to download at

English without Frontiers
This EU funded project offers a curriculum (method, syllabus and materials) for teaching English as a Foreign Language to adult learners with intellectual disabilities or learning difficulties. The curriculum was developed by an international consortium as part of the Barrier-Free Language Learning project to demonstrate that adult learners with intellectual disabilities can and want to learn foreign languages. Even if the materials themselves are not of interest to you, there is plenty of good advice on screen that can be applied in teaching any language.

European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education
Facilitates the collection, processing and transfer of European level and country specific information.

ALLEGRO - Languages break barriers
A project which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of language learning among agencies and organisations outside the field of teaching and learning and promote opportunities for disadvantaged groups to learn a foreign language

Inclusive education: Knowing what we mean
A free study unit from the Open University's Learning Space

[4.10.12] Multilingualism, also for children with an auditive or communicative disability!
Until now most logopedists and therapists believe that children with an auditive or communicative disability such as, deafness, down-syndrome or autism should be brought up in one language. Drs. Mirjam Blumenthal, researcher at the Royal Kentalis, proves the opposite with her presentation!

[12.7.13] SENnet: Special Educational Needs Network
SENnet provides information and support for those working to develop the use of technology to improve access for school age learners with special educational needs. SENnet is funded by the European Commission. The project runs from December 2011 to November 2014 and is managed by European Schoolnet.




Ideas, inspiration and support are available from specialist providers such as Inclusive Technology (; Crick (; Sherston (

[12.7.13] SENnet: Special Educational Needs Network
SENnet provides information and support for those working to develop the use of technology to improve access for school age learners with special educational needs. SENnet is funded by the European Commission. The project runs from December 2011 to November 2014 and is managed by European Schoolnet.




Inclusion classes in USA, Austria and Italy An account by Marianna Buultjens of her visits to schools in three countries. From the Newsletter of the Scottish Sensory Centre.

Mobility International USA
Empowering people with disabilities around the world to achieve their human rights through international exchange and international development.
A World Awaits You
An online journal full of firsthand accounts by people with disabilities about their success in international exchange programs and their advice for others:

Provision of Modern Foreign Languages for lower achievers and pupils with special educational needs in secondary schools In England, Scotland and the Czech Republic Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of M.Litt to the University Of Glasgow Faculty of Education, May 2008 by Mary Clare McEachern - Kelly

New Jersey World Languages Curriculum Framework
See, in particular:
Chapter 12: Instructional adaptations for students with diverse needs. In two parts: 1. Adaptations for students with disabilities. 2. Adaptations for exceptionally able (gifted) learners
Appendix C: Methodology for innovative instruction
Appendix D: Instructional strategies
Appendix E: Graphic organizers

Language Learning Disabilities: Theoretical and Practical Tools for English Teachers in Finnish Upper Secondary School
A 2005 thesis by Katrina Viskari for the Department of Languages University of JYVÄSKYLÄ, Finland. The introduction is in Finnish, the main paper is in English.

Foreign language education for all students
A position paper from the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages (NCSSFL) (USA)

This page on wikispaces has links to sites dealing with second language learning for learners with various learning difficulties:

French immersion programme
With more than 60 per cent of students in Ottawa now choosing the immersion route and studying almost exclusively in French, there are growing concerns that it has become a de facto method of selecting and streaming pupils.

Using symbols
Do you use symbols with your students? Do you use also use symbols for foreign language learning?
The stories here (French, German, Spanish and Dutch) are long and quite advanced, but they may give you some ideas about how you could use symbols to support foreign language learning in your own context.

Making independent language learning accessible to disabled university students
This downloadable Guide to Good Practice provides details of design and provision of resources as well as technological aids, lists of contact organisations and useful websites. It includes the following downloadable appendices:
Appendix 2: The current state of electronic mobility devices and electronic orientation aids for blind and partially sighted people
Appendix 3: Case study 1 - Gita Ganger, partially sighted university language student
Appendix 4: Case study 2 - Clare Mar-Molinero, partially sighted member of university language staff
Appendix 5: Accessibility and the language learner with dyslexia.

Making your teaching inclusive
Detailed information and advice from the Open University for those teaching disabled students at tertiary level.
Barriers to learning:
Preparing to teach inclusively:

Latin for students with Learning Disabilities
A short paper from the University of Colorado, US that includes reasons why Latin is a viable choice for students with learning problems, a list of characteristics that describe the ideal teacher for students with learning disabilities (not just languages - so may be of more general interest), and The Organizational Characteristics of an Ideal Latin Class are Appropriate for LD Students (which, again, may have more general application).

Another blog dedicated to the teaching and learning of Latin, including views on teaching Latin to students with learning difficulties.

Foreign language learning and Special Needs Children
Some useful links on early learning benefits:

Books for all: curriculum materials for students with ASN

Creating Accessible Teaching and Support (CATS)
A website from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council that aims to encourage equitable, inclusive access to university education for people with disabilities. It provides information about inclusive teaching, learning, assessment and support.

Hertfordshire Grid for Learning: Slower Learners

Languages for all
A CD support pack for teaching languages to children with special educational needs. For teachers working at Key Stage 2 or with older learners working at or below level 2. The pack includes a 12-page FAQs booklet and a CD containing key documents, teaching ideas, resources and guidance on tracking pupils’ progress. An excellent resource from CILT. For more information:

Language learning with a diverse range of learners
For a series of case studies, see:

Can I learn Spanish if I have a disability?
Some comments from a teacher.

[27.3.11] Example of an inclusive school policy on language learning
Kenilworth Primary School, Hertfordshire UK

[1.8.11] Books for All: improving accessibility to curricular materials for print disabled pupils
The project supports local authorities, teachers and other practitioners in the provision of adapted learning materials in accessible, alternative formats for pupils who have difficulties reading ordinary printed books.

[5.6.12] Professional development workshops: supporting students in mainstream education
Downloadable from Thomson School District Wiki.

[16.6.12] Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
The principles of UDL focus on access to all aspects of learning. The US Centre for Applied Special technology (CAST) has produced detailed Guidelines on how to apply the principles of UDL to the practice of mainstream teaching.

[9.11.13] Financial advice for disabled students in UK
A useful source of advice on the financial help available to learners considering applying for courses in Higher Education.



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