Education in a Foreign Language for Children with Special Needs?

by Corey · 1 comment

Dear Madalena,

I wanted to ask you about kids with special education needs attending language immersion programs.

If the student has reading/writing/language processing disabilities, is it too much to add on top of that the layer of going to school in a foreign language that is not supported in the home?

Thank you,

Dear Kimberly,
Your question provides very little information, but I will nevertheless attempt to give you a few suggestions.

Any advice on what kind of schooling to choose for a child with clinically diagnosed disorders must depend on the type and/or severity of the disorder(s) and on the support that a school is able to provide. There are no clear “yes-or-no” answers to your question, that could apply across the board. Sensible decisions must emerge from careful discussion on a case-by-case basis, and this is true for multilingual as well as monolingual children.

Reading, writing and processing disorders are different kinds of disorder. Dyslexia, for example, will require specific support that is not required for, for example, language delay, and vice versa. A child with all three kinds of disorder will require different support from a child with one kind of disorder.

You mention schooling in a “foreign language”, and add that this language “is not supported in the home”. Again, these are different things. A “foreign” language to the home may not be a foreign language to the child, who may be familiar with it outside the home.

A school which, being duly informed, accepts a student who has been diagnosed with clinical disorders, and for whom the language of schooling is either all-new or not used at home, will have the resources to deal with that student. Medical and speech-language specialists with awareness of multilingualism will be able to advise you on the best available choice for a particular child.

Do feel free to contact me privately, if you wish to discuss these matters in greater detail.


Madalena Cruz-Ferreira, PhD, University of Manchester, UK, is a multilingual parent, educator and scholar, and the author of Multilinguals are...?, a book on myths and misconceptions about multilingualism. Her blog Being Multilingual deals with multilingualism at home, in school and in clinic. Her contact, and details on her work, are at:

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