Baylor offers specialized language classes to students

Assistant Director of OALA, Anna Shaw, helps students with learning disabilities find academic accommodations and make sure that they are implemented for each student. Photo courtesy of Anna Shaw

By Alexandra Donnel | Reporter

Most Baylor students are required to take four semesters of foreign language for their major, but what about those who have learning disabilities? Baylor offers special courses through OALA for students with language based learning disabilities, to these students taking a traditional language class can feel impossible to pass.

Anna Shaw is the assistant director for the Office of Access and Learning Accommodations, or OALA and has been at Baylor since 2005. As the assistant director, Shaw works to mentor, teach, and help students with disabilities find academic accommodations as well as making sure academic accommodations are implemented.

“Students with learning disabilities and cognitive disorders often experience difficulties related to language, which makes it challenging for them to succeed with reading, math, and the oral or written expression of language. They often experience added difficulty in learning a non-English language,” Shaw said.

Students who take these specialized language classes must meet certain requirements. Students must be registered with learning disabilities services, they need documentation of language based learning disabilities, and a permit from a dean.

For students who think they may need to take one of OALA’s modified language courses, they must seek out associate deans for the College of Arts and Sciences for a permit for MLC 1V99 or 2V99 which are special studies for French or Spanish classes.

“Students with language-based learning disabilities are increasingly seeking foreign language course substitution accommodations, and foreign language departments are being asked to reexamine their departmental policies in seeking to accommodate these students,” Shaw said.

According to Shaw, the specialized language classes have a different format and pace than other language classes, but students are still expected to work just as hard because they are serious academic classes. Depending on the level of the class, students receive either three or four credit hours just like they would in a traditional class.

Alexis Martin is a junior Medical Humanities major from Amarillo, Texas. Martin is currently taking her third semester of a specialized French class taught by Shaw.

“I am so thankful to be in Mrs. Shaw’s class because having a learning disability can be really challenging when you are trying to learn a foreign language,” Martin said. “She breaks the material in a way that it is easy to understand and the pace is slower so you don’t feel as lost and get behind in work.”

Martin enjoys that the specialized class also focuses on French culture, their food, their industries, and architecture more so than a traditional language class.