Speech and Language Impairments

Communication Disorders

What is a speech and language impairment?

A speech impairment is when someone has difficulty producing sounds and articulating words. Persons with a speech impairment also have problems speaking correctly or fluently. A example of a speech impediment that most people have heard of is stuttering.

A Language impairment is when a person has a hard time understanding others, trouble sharing feelings, and trouble haring thoughts/ideas. This shows problems within their receptive and expressive language.

It is Important to understand that both Children and Adults deal with Speech and Language Impairments.

Several causes for speech and language impairments are hearing loss, neurological disorders, brain injury, intellectual disabilities, drug abuse, physical impairments such as cleft lip or palate, and vocal abuse or misuse. Frequently, however, the cause is unknown

Some Definitions

Articulation: speech impairments where the child produces sounds incorrectly (e.g., lisp, difficulty articulating certain sounds, such as “l” or “r”);

Fluency: speech impairments where a child’s flow of speech is disrupted by sounds, syllables, and words that are repeated, prolonged, or avoided and where there may be silent blocks or inappropriate inhalation, exhalation, or phonation patterns;

Voice: speech impairments where the child’s voice has an abnormal quality to its pitch, resonance, or loudness; and

Language: language impairments where the child has problems expressing needs, ideas, or information, and/or in understanding what others say

Definition of “Speech or Language Impairment” under IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, defines the term “speech or language impairment” as follows:

“(11) Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.” [34 CFR §300.8(c)(11]

Blue Christmas with Porky Pig

Primary Areas of Difficulty


  • Has trouble with certain letters (1-2 p,b,m,h,w / 2-3 k,g,f,t,d,n)

  • Produces speech that is unfamiliar to familiar people

  • Repeats first sounds of words (bbbball)

  • Pauses a lot while talking

  • Stretches sounds out while speaking

  • When a person has a hard time understanding others. (receptive language)

  • Trouble sharing thoughts

  • Trouble sharing ideas

  • Trouble sharing feelings (expressive language)
  • improper use of words and their meanings,
  • inappropriate grammatical patterns,
  • reduced vocabulary, and
  • inability to follow directions

Assistive technology applications (apps or devices) for supporting the student

  • Use computers to provide additional practice of concepts and skills.

  • Explore local resources - Library Services, AVTs, Districts and Therapists

  • Create resources with symbol/visual support - using specialized software or digital photos.

  • Use Assistive Technology specialized software programs for literacy and visual support - text to speech, word prediction, visual organizers etc.

  • Provide a range of source materials such as readers, magazines, posters, at various levels.

Other Resources

American Speech Language Hearing Association

Speech and Communication Disorders

Speech and Language Impairments

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