Definition and Types of Communication Impairments


West Bridgewater Public Schools

Speech/Language Department

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]

There are many kinds of speech and language disorders that can affect children. These disorders are described below:

Articulation:   Children with articulation impairments may substitute one sound for another, omit sounds from words, distort sounds, or add sounds to words.

Fluency:  When a child is  dysfluent the smooth flow of  speech is disrupted.  The child may  produce  sounds, syllables, and words that are repeated or  prolonged.  The child may avoid saying certain words or sounds.  The child  may exhibit  silent blocks or inappropriate inhalation, exhalation, or phonation patterns.

Voice:  A child with a voice impairement may exhibit such vocal characteristics as an abnormal quality to  pitch, resonance, or loudness.  A voice disorder may be the result of inappropriate use of the voice (yelling, singing, etc.).  A voice disorder is diagnosed by a physician.

Language:  A child with an expressive  language impairment  has problems expressing needs, ideas, and information.  A child with a receptive language impairment  has difficulty  understanding what others say.  A child can have both a receptive and expressive language impairment.