My Kid has a Learning Disability and is in French Immersion – Does that make me a bad parent?

“You’re just setting him up for failure, you know.”

“Why punish him by making him learn a second language when he can’t handle a first?”

“Just wait until he gets to High School, then you’ll understand why I was right.”

Yup. Those were words once spoken to me by a teacher (thankfully not one that taught my son).

I loved the discussion around assistive technologies last week, but I’ve been dreading this post. This conversation hits very close to home for me as I have a son who is Dyslexic (although they don’t officially diagnose that anymore). On his file – he has a “Reading and Writing Disability”. Because of the hard work of his amazing teachers and LRTs, we were able to get him a laptop to assist him in his daily work. He is currently in Grade 8 and is doing amazing in French Immersion and even has plans to continue in French Immersion through High School.

However, those damning comments always sneak up in my mind. I judge my decisions all the time and then, I remember “He’s got this. He’s got the tools he needs to succeed. Let him do it if he wants to!” And the best part about it- HE WANTS TO DO IT!

“It” is French Immersion. Learning a second language is hard enough as it is. Doing it with a reading and writing disability makes it even harder. Lucky for him, he has the technology to help him along and a mom who also happens to be a French Immersion teacher. So this post is going to be about all the positive ways technology has helped my learning disabled child be successful in French Immersion.

#1: Google Read&Write http://thinglinkURL

Google ReadWrite allows my son to work on documents in Drive, assist him in reading websites and helps read to him. He doesn’t use it as often as I would like him to, but it is because it is still not quite as user friendly as it could be, but it’s much simpler than Kurzweil.

#2: Google Translate

This is a tricky one. French Immersion teachers either love or hate this app. Some students use it inappropriately by simply typing what they want to say in English and then hit translate to French and then copy and paste and turn it in. It happened a couple of times when I taught Grade 7/8 French Immersion. Thankfully, the following video explained to my students why we can always catch them when they copy and paste.

Google translate has its useful purposes. I have used it quite often to look up a word in French or even help getting ideas on how to properly phrase an idea. However, this video reminds me and my students that it is not a perfect system and that we have to make sure that it is used with a critical eye. My son uses it in two different ways: the first is obvious, to help him with his French vocabulary while writing. However, the second is for it’s speech recognition. If he is unsure of how to spell a word (whether in English or French), he simply presses the microphone icon, speaks the word and Google Translate helps him with his spelling.

Another interesting feature with Google Translate is the camera view. When using Google Translate on a mobile device with a camera you can click on the camera icon, hover it over the text and Google Translate will translate the text it “sees”. This is useful to parents who may be helping with homework and are not familiar with the language.

#3 Word Reference

Word Reference is used by the teachers who do not like Google Translate. Word Reference allows for multiple definitions and translations of a word. I find Word Reference very “wordy” and for my son it’s too much information for him to sift through.


#4: Bon Patron

Bon Patron is a great teaching tool to help French Immersion students navigate the very difficult world of learning the French language. Students simply copy and paste parts of their French text into Bon Patron and then the program provides suggestions and teaches the students how to correct grammatical and spelling errors. It is not a perfect program but it is very effective in helping students. My son uses it for almost every French assignment to help correct what he is working on.


As you hover over a part of the sentence that is highlighted or underlined, it gives you a rule and options for possible fixes. My students were not allowed to hand in assignments until they put it through Bon Patron first. The nice thing about this is it offers a free version and their is a paid version. However, the free version is perfect for French Immersion students.

I know with all my heart that I am not a bad parent for allowing my son to continue with French Immersion, but the stigma of the difficulties of learning a second language with a learning disability still remains. However, the technologies that are offered to assist those (and basically everyone else) to be successful in everything they do is endless and as long as technology is accepted and supported to allow those to use it.


4 thoughts on “My Kid has a Learning Disability and is in French Immersion – Does that make me a bad parent?

  1. Great post Rochelle! From what I can see you are an awesome parent. I think it’s important to challenge kids and also give them the tools they need to be successful… thanks for sharing your experience

  2. Hi Rochelle,
    Bernard Laplante taught one of my undergrad classes (Director of the BAC program at the time). I will never forget what he said when a discussion came up about if French Immersion was a good fit for students who had learning disabilities. Basically the question “is FI for all or is it an elitist program” sadly still exists. This was the answer he gave us to think over:
    If a student is driving from Regina to Saskatoon in an old beat up car with a full tank of gas would he get there? If a student had a brand new car with no gas would he get there? -He compared the car to a student with learning disabilities and the gas to a student’s motivation. Basically with motivation you can go anywhere. Even students with the new car (no disability) won’t get to Saskatoon without gas (drive). Motivation and drive take us farther in life.
    Thanks for sharing your resources and personal story. I have never heard of Bon Parton and had a great laugh watching Fresh Prince: Google Translated.

    • What a beautiful perspective! I agree that both Rochelle and her son show great motivation and drive. Kudos to you Rochelle for silencing the critics and supporting your son in experiencing success through the help of assistive tech.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s