Speech and Language Impairments Special Needs Factsheet
What Teachers Should Know
Speech refers to the way sounds and words are formed, and language refers to the broader system of receiving and expressing information.
Students with speech impairments may have difficulty with:
- articulation, the production of speech sounds
- fluency, the rhythm and flow of speech (stuttering is a common fluency disorder)
- voice, the quality of pitch, resonance, or loudness
Students with language impairments may have difficulty understanding and being understood through communication — verbal, nonverbal, and written.
Students with speech and language impairments may:
- need accommodations in seating or use assistive devices in class
- have difficulty understanding or following directions
- have difficulty reading, writing, or speaking aloud in class
- feel self-conscious or anxious about talking
- miss class time to attend speech-language therapy
What Teachers Can Do
Students with speech and language impairments may benefit from individualized education programs (IEPs) or 504 education plans. If your student is being treated for a speech or language problem, part of the treatment may include seeing a speech-language pathologist (SLP) during the school day. Therapy may be one or more times a week, depending on the severity of the condition.
Students with speech and language impairments can feel stressed and anxious, which can make it even harder to talk and express themselves. The student may speak slowly in class and should be given plenty of time to express his or her thoughts. Interrupting or completing a sentence for the student is not helpful and might cause embarrassment.
You can support your student by:
- giving additional time to complete assignments or make up work
- substituting written papers or projects for oral presentations, or allowing the student to demonstrate learning one-on-one with you
- reviewing the IEP or 504, if the student has one, and working with the SLP to facilitate communication and learning in the classroom
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014