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Supporting International Students With Learning Disabilities In The Classroom

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

In 2018 at small restaurant in Indonesia, I was eating dinner. I noticed a mother and her autistic nonverbal son order a meal. I was impressed with her sign language and how both she patiently allowed him to chose his meal. It was an 20 minute conversation before an order was placed. At one point she looked up an caught my eye. I smiled and responded back in sign language, “you are doing a good job mom!” She immediately jumped up and came over to me with her son. She replied in rapid sign language by asking if I was a teacher? After repeated attempts of trying to understand her rapid sign language. I explained my sign language was limited and I answered yes. She quickly went to English and peppered me with questions. I could help her get her son in to my school. Will I work privately for her? We ended up eating dinner together and having an in-depth conversation about the struggle to educate her son. She shared the skills her son can perform from reading, math, music, computers, and some writing at a fourth or fifth grade level. I asked who taught her son? She shared she studied in Australia and the US for her engineering degree. She taught her son. I quickly learned the struggle and challenges she and her child faced. Given today's global knowledge how can SWD be side lined and not educated?

While working overseas as an international administrator/leader, I found most international schools do the minimum for SWD. As a founding school leader, bringing in the right training and learning support specialist is crucial. Finding a highly trained and experienced learning specialist and classroom teachers with the knowledge and willingness to step outside of the box and leaner new techniques is the biggest challenge. As an international teacher and educational leader, you will encounter situations where you have no choice but to accept a child who does not meet the admission policy guidelines due to pressures from local officials and the well connected VIP's. Where do you go for help? How do you meet the needs of this student? How do you support your teachers?

One of my recent international leadership positions in China, I was most fortunate to have the budget to hire an extremely talented Learning Specialist who came with a USA Special Education teaching certificatification, worked overseas internationally for 14 years, and had an Applied Behavior Analysis Certification (ABAC). Her experience was not only critical for our Pre-K to Grade 12 students but for teachers who needed guidance and classroom support. She was most valuable as an asset to the school when the pandemic forced students and teachers to online teaching. She provided training for our teachers on how to differentiate online teaching. Our school leaders and classroom teachers came to the realization that the gap of knowledge they were experiencing needed to be addressed with training for both local and expat teachers. With her ideas and support we turned to nationally known scholars who provided webinar trainings. These professional development trainings allowed all teachers to be exposed to the potential every child had.

Knowing how to utilize a Learning Specialist as a mentor and support for classroom teachers is vital. Our Learning Specialist was Jessica Bain. She owns and runs Bainiacs Educational Therapy & Consulting . The business is accessible internationally and locally in the United States. She can be found online at Her specialty is supporting students with diverse learning needs, their families, and teachers across multiple curricula, from PreK to Grade 12. Her extensive experience help our IBDP. students in class and during exams. The types of educational support services offered are reading remediation, literacy development, study skills, exam prep, teacher training, school consulting and International Baccalaureate examiner and support for IB DP students. She is a trained Orton Gillingham Instructor. Learners with specific learning disabilities are able to access a variety of programs and tools tailored to the individual. She is sensitive to the myriad of things that can aid or derail client accomplishment and work with families and schools to set up support systems.

International schools must invest in Learning Specialist they play a critical role in creating a more inclusive and supportive learning environment. Schools will succeed with differently-abled learners by implementing inclusive education practices that cater to diverse needs, providing individualized support and accommodations. This approach promotes a sense of belonging and enables all students to access a quality education. Additionally, the collaboration of specialized professionals like learning specialists, along with strong teacher training and parental involvement, can further enhance the success of differently-abled learners in school. Who wouldn't want that for their child?

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Love your story


Ella Wallace
Ella Wallace
Nov 14, 2023

this is well explained, love how you are able to open opportunities for everyone

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