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Special Education/Foreign Language Strategies for Learning Disabled and ADHD Students


My ninth grade student has ADHD. The transition to high school has been difficult, but for the majority of his classes he is getting his arms around the tools he needs to succeed, is developing time management and organizational strategies about, how to approach most of his subjects, and is develop appropriate study techniques and tools he can use. He is on an upward trajectory in his other classes, but Spanish remains a real problem for him. Unlike the other classes where he is making progress, he appears genuinely mystified about how to approach learning a foreign language, what is expected of him, what he needs to do to satisfactorily perform, and how to do it. He has gone to the Spanish Club for tutoring, but he does not seem to know how to use what they have to offer. While his mother and I can help him with other subjects, we do not have the background to help him with a foreign language. We have considered a professional tutor for Spanish, but I think he needs something different than just a regular tutor. I think he needs someone who would be more of a coach,can give him a sense of how to approach and access a foreign language given some of his issues, and successfully put all the pieces together. I would like to get your thoughts. He is being encouraged by the school to drop out of Spanish at this point because he is so lost, but I think he would be better off if we can figure out a way to help him leave the subject with some sense of positive accomplishment rather than a sense of failure. Any thoughts on strategies or a different type of approach that may benefit an ADHD/learning disabled student to succeed with a foreign language? Many thanks.

I am purely guessing since I know little about your son at this point...but if his disability is language based in English you would expect learning a foreign language equally as difficult.  I like you idea about helping to gain a positive experience, but not sure how...I do know that most people learn language when they are immersed in it, rather than learning isolated phrases, etc.  I would shop around for a professional tutor, especially one with full competency in Spanish (can speak and write both Spanish and writing.  In the meantime see if he can use the Kahn Academy videos.  I don't know if Kahn has Spanish, but I do know that most of what they create for free use is excellent.

I do hope you find what makes it click for him!


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Dr. Norm Bishop


I have spent nealy 40 years in the area of Special Education. I have had the pleasure of teaching pre-school, elementary, middle, high school and college levels, as well as, served in school district administration buildings in classroom/legal support positions. I have also spent some time working in a State Department of Education Exceptional Student Services Office and am now currently Division Head and Director of Institutional Research at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. I also teach special education classes on campus. I have also taught full time teacher preparation at Northern Arizona University on the Tucson Campus, Seattle Pacific University, and at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming. In addition to that I have taught adjunct at Seattle Pacific University, City University in Seattle, Ashford University, and Grand Canyon University.


I have experienced directly special education legal issues, process and procedure, and have taught at all levels in every special education category except gifted. My major expertise is diagnostic prescriptive teaching, literacy as it relates to disabilities, technology in special education, and Educational Leadership. My greatest passion in the field is building new programs, implementing and doing the research to see how they work. My Dissertation and principle research interest is in the area of inclusive education, primarily co-teaching of students with disabilities in the general education classroom.

Council for Exceptional Children, Association for the Supervision of Curriculum, National Reading Council.

Teaching Exceptional Children, Published computer assisted instruction, titled PAL, Special Education Basics, college Textbook, Teaching with Precision, college Textbook, Various devotionals at the website,

I have a B.A. in Secondary Education, a Masters in Special Education (cross categorical), administrative certification, and a second B.A. in Elementary Education. I completed my doctorate in Educational Leadership at Northern Arizona University.

Awards and Honors
Best Summer Program in the Nation (Honorable Mention, when I was Teaching) Multiple local awards

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