Dad wondering about foreign language waiver for dyslexic 10th-grade son

I am seeking advice in the consideration of a foreign language waiver for my son. He is in the tenth grade and is dyslexic. Will this limit his ability to get into the college of his choice?


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

Despite our federal law in the U.S., waiving the requirement (or making a substitution or accommodations) for a foreign language at the college/university level continues to be up to the institution. This article provides a nice overview of why learning a foreign language can be difficult for students with LD and cites a court case where it was determined that accommodations/waivers are reasonable at the college level. Regardless of where he attends, your son will need record of his documented learning disability. Most colleges and universities want the testing to have been done within a three-year period, but you'll want to check with the institution as to its specific requirements. The International Dyslexia Association also provides a good overview of the challenges related to this issue.

Additionally, this 1997 article from LD Online provides some good suggestions applicable to your son right now. Scroll down to the Recommendations heading.

As a sophomore in high school, your son has time to prepare. There are a number of things to think about:

  • Is he interested in a foreign language and can he use his strengths to learn one? Some foreign languages are easier to learn than others—get advice as to which one to try based on his strengths.
  • How is he doing in his high school class?
  • Is learning a second language so difficult that the requirement needs to be waived in high school?
  • Do you have the proper documentation of his learning disability at this point?
  • Does he want to study or work abroad?
  • Will his potential career path be boosted by having a second language?
  • Some students with LD flourish in immersion programs where they can use their strong oral language and auditory memory skills to learn the language in context—does the school allow students to study abroad for a semester?
  • Is that experience of interest to your son?

If he thinks he would benefit from having a second language skill set, you and he will want to talk to the college or university of choice to see what accommodations will be made. Get that in writing!

In short, you are right on target to be thinking about this now. I'm hoping this information will set you on the right track with investigating the answers to your question(s). Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. Good luck!!