LD students often do well in American Sign Language.

Need a foreign language credit? Try American Sign Language.

This is often a terrific choice for a LD student, both in high school and /or college.

It’s hard to escape foreign language study in high school.

Schools usually require several foreign language courses, and most colleges want you to have taken at least two years of the same foreign language before admission. But for many LD students, learning a foreign language is a daunting task. Students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities often struggle to learn the new vocabulary, spelling rules, and grammatical structures of foreign languages. 

Fortunately, many high schools offer an alternative to traditional foreign languages: American Sign Language (ASL).

What is ASL?

ASL is a visual language that conveys meaning through hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language. Although primarily used by the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, ASL is increasingly being adopted among the hearing population. ASL is the third most popular language in the United States, and college enrollment in ASL increased 16 percent between 2006 and 2009 (Modern Language Association).

Why Should I Take ASL?

ASL is a unique language in that it does not have a spoken or written component; instead ASL is a purely visual and kinetic language. And so many of the problems that LD students face with the written word – including trouble with spelling, memorization and  decoding when reading – do not occur when learning ASL.

ASL is increasingly recommended for LD students. In fact, many students who have trouble with traditional languages end up exceling in ASL. If your learning style is visual or tactile, as opposed to an auditory learner, ASL may a terrific choice.

What are the Other Benefits of ASL?

Learning ASL has many other benefits. It improves cognitive development, and promotes creative thinking. It helps you communicate more easily with those around you who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing. ASL is also high valued in the business world because it allows for quick, silent communication.

What Now?

Check with your high school and see if they offer ASL courses as foreign language credit. If not, research the universities in your area; some offer ASL courses that are open to high school students. But make sure to find out if your high school will count the university courses for your foreign language credit.

For more information on ASL check out the resources below:

ASL as a foreign language: http://www.oregon.gov/dhs/odhhs/pages/tadoc/deaf5.aspx

The benefits of ASL for LD students: http://atlantareads.org/?p=87

Learning ASL: http://www.nad.org/issues/american-sign-language/learning-american-sign-language

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