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This page is introduced and overseen by Vivienne Wire, formerly Principal Teacher of the Communication Centre at Loudon Academy in East Ayrshire, Scotland.

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Additional needs - Introduction

Why teach languages to pupils who are experiencing difficulties in learning?

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

Workshop 8 Planning support for learners on the autism spectrum

In recent years the number of pupils being diagnosed with autism has increased considerably. Some of them are included in modern language classes, perhaps with support, and some are withdrawn specifically from this subject. Yet all are young Europeans, entitled to an opportunity to learn a foreign language and to acquire some cultural awareness. My experiences have convinced me that pupils with autism should be offered the same opportunities as other young people and that they can benefit from them.

The material on this page provided the evidence which underpins my conviction and describes some of the strategies that have proved useful. I shall from time to time add links to other resources and information that might prove useful.

photo of Vivienne Wire

Since this page was started we have been contacted by a number of parents, students and teachers, all concerned to do their best for the autistic children in their care. We are grateful to those who have allowed us to tell their stories in the form of mini case studies.


Please see note on copyright


Learning a second language - everyone's right, or not right for everyone?
This is an account of research I carried out as part of my Masters Degree. I set out to explore the experience of foreign language learning for pupils in Scotland who have a communication disorder of the high functioning autistic type.


Abstract, Acknowledgements, Contents and Prologue

Chapter 1

Literature review and general background

Chapter 2

The research questions

Chapter 3


Chapter 4

Case study

Chapter 5

Results from data collection

Chapter 6

Discussion and evaluation of results

Epilogue & Post Script




Appendix 1


Appendix 2

Gaelic medium education

Summary Planning Grid

Learner characteristics and implications for MFL learning and teaching

Vivienne's dissertation can now be found on the Inclusive Practice in Language Learning website:

Special Educational Needs in Europe: The teaching and learning of languages
My contribution to the EU report can be downloaded here.
Communication and interaction difficulties

Support for Learning, the British Journal of Learning Support
This is an electronic version of my article published in August 2005 NASEN 2005
Autistic Spectrum Disorders and learning foreign languages

Children with Asperger's Syndrome in primary school: difficulties with foreign language learning
This dissertation was written by Fabrizia Baso for the final part of her degree in Modern Languages at the University of Venice. It is written partly in Italian, partly in English. We are grateful to the author, to the Unversity and to the family who inspired this study for their permission to publish here. Dissertation

Some questions we have been asked, and some answers

FAQ 1: Can children with Asperger's Syndrome learn a foreign language?

FAQ 2: What can I say to sceptical colleagues?

Some mini case studies


[Links last checked 22.5.11 unless otherwise indicated.]

A difficulty, oui, a deficit, non

Link to an article about the special units at Hillpark Secondary School published by the Times Educational Supplement Scotland in May 2002.

Link to a discussion on the Times Educational Supplement forum about MFL successes by youngsters with Asperger's Syndrome:

Times Educational Supplement online staffroom. A thread about teaching languages to children with autism was started on 11th May 2007

Children with autism: strategies for accessing the curriculum: modern foreign languages
Published in 2004 by North West SEN Regional Partnership. Available to download at:

Autism toolbox
A resource to help local authorities and schools in Scotland who provide for children and young people with autism. All schools, partner provider nurseries and local authorities have been provided with a copy of the new guidance, to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

Supporting students with Asperger's Syndrome in general education

Rote learning
Some interesting ideas about Asperger's and rote learning. What might be the implications for learning languages other than Latin?

A portal linking related sites in over 30 European countries. Includes the EU Charter for Persons with Autism.

The National Autistic Society

Going abroad
The benefits of going abroad for people with Asperger's Syndrome and autism, the steps to take and the questions to ask when planning an inclusive group exchange.

Temple Grandin
If you have never come across the TED website here's a great introduction. Listen to Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talk about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: "visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of'smart geeky kids".

Special Scotland: Working for Autism
A Scottish Charity aimed at helping parents with autistic children.

[19.10.11] Autism Good Practice
Newly published materials, from a recent Good Practice Conference, are now available online. Not specifically about MFL, but may be of interest to carers.

Beyond autism
A site maintained by a parent that has "been there, done that, and still doing it". Contains many links to other resources. It aims to help parents move "beyond the label of autism". Includes links on teaching methodologies, education and special education resources, IEP information, augmentive and communication, information on assistive technology, disability, legal information, sensory dysfunction issues, specialized catalogs,behavior problems etc. etc.

[2.6.11] Do children with autism acquire the phonology of their peers?
An examination of group identification through the window of bilingualism. (Abstract.)

[2.6.11] Severe developmental disorders and bilingualism

[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!

[11.3.16] Autism and bilingualism: Is bilingualism harmful for children with autism?
Key point from recent research.



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