Speech and Language Impairment

Speech or language impairment

The umbrella term “speech or language impairment” covers a number of communication problems. Those include stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment or voice impairment.

 speech and languageimpairments as “a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance.”



  • Noticeably behind other students in speech and/or language skills development
  • May have a learning disability (difficulties with reading or written language) with average intelligence
  • Improper use of words and their meanings
  • Inability to express ideas
  • Inappropriate use of grammar when talking or writing
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Difficulties in understanding and/or using words in context, both verbally and nonverbally
  • May hear or see a word but not be able to understand its meaning
  • May have trouble getting others to understand what they are trying to communicate
  • Has difficulty remembering and using specific words during conversation, or when answering a question
  • Asks questions and/or responds to questions inappropriately
  • Has difficulty discriminating likenesses and differences
  • Has difficulty breaking words into sounds and syllable
  • Has difficulty with concepts of time, space, quantity, size, and measurement
  • Has difficulty understanding and using complex sentences
  • Has problems understanding rules and patterns for word and sentence formation
  • Cannot identify pronouns
  • Cannot retell the events in a story in order
  • Cannot make predictions, make judgments, draw conclusions
  • Difficulties with figurative language (such as alliteration, similes, metaphors, personification, and idioms)
  • Cannot give clear directions
  • Cannot summarize essential details from hearing or reading a passage, nor distinguish relevant from irrelevant information
  • Has difficulty understanding and solving math word problems (one or multi-step)
  • Will not initiate conversations
  • Has difficulty reading what others communicate through facial expressions and body language
  • Repeats what is said or what is read, vocally or subvocally (under breath)
  • Uses gestures when talking or in place of talking
  • Is slow to respond during verbal interaction or following verbal cues
  • Cannot identify or use different language in written work (expository, descriptive or narrative)
  • Cannot write an organized paragraph


  • Noticeably behind other students in speech and/or language skills development
  • Trouble forming sounds (called articulation or phonological disorders)
  • Difficulties with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice
  • May display stuttering (dysfluency), an interruption in the flow of speech
  • Omits or substitutes sounds when pronouncing words
  • May have trouble getting others to understand what they are trying to say
  • May have trouble with the way their voice sounds
  • Is echolalic (repeats speech)
  • Does not use appropriate speaking volume (too loud or too soft)
  • May have breathy, harsh, husky or monotone voice
  • Continually sounds congested
  • Sounds nasal and voice may have a "whining" quality
  • Has abnormal rhythm or rate of speech
  • Frequently prolongs or repeats sounds, words, phrases and/or sentences during speech
  • Has unintelligible (cannot be understood) or indistinct speech


Classroom Accommodations/Modifications for Speech Impairments:

  • The most effective support for students with speech impairments is to receive speech therapy given by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). (Smith & Tyler, 2014) 
  • Based on speech severity, allow the student to substitute oral assignments with written papers or use other available technologies. (www.fentress.k12tn.net)
  • Modify grading based on speech impairment. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Allow the student time to express themselves. Do no interrupt a slow speaker. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Provide the SLP with spelling/vocabulary lists. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Allow the use of assistive technologies. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Develop a procedure for the student to ask for help. (Do2Learn.com, 2013)
  • Be a good speech model and speak directly to the student. (education.qld.gov.au, 2015)

Classroom Accommodations/Modifications for Language Impairments:

  • Students are greatly benefited by receiving language therapy from a speech-language therapist (SLP). (Smith & Tyler, 2014)
  • Provide the student with information on topics prior to going over them in class. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Minimize classroom noises and distractions. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Provide copy of class notes. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Give assignments both orally and written. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Allow extended time for assignments and tests. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Modify the length of assignments. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Provide a private location for testing. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Allow use of adaptive technologies. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Provide SLP with spelling/vocabulary lists. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Pre-teach words/ideas before using them in a real situation. (www.fentress.k12tn.net) 
  • Ensure student has a way to appropriately express wants and needs. (Do2Learn.com, 2013) 
  • Ask open-ended questions. (Do2Learn.com, 2013) 
  • Present only one concept at a time. (Do2Learn.com, 2013) 
  • Work at the student's pace. (Do2Learn.com, 2013) 
  • Use tactic and visual cues (e.g. pictures, 3-D objects). (Do2Learn.com, 2013) 
  • Use as many hands-on experiences as possible. (Eggleston & Larson, 2007) 
  • Graphic organizers are useful in helping students organize and understand various language concepts. (Smith & Tyler, 2014) 



Do2Learn: Educational Resources for Special Needs (Do2Learn: Educational Resources for Special Needs)

McKinley & Larson, 90; NSW Dept. School Ed, 89; Bashir, 89; Buttrill et al, 89.
Independent Education, December, 1993

January 2011 | Resources updated online, May 2014
Center for Parent Information and Resources (Center for Parent Information and Resources) 

Gargiulo, R.M. (2006). Special education in contemporary society: An introduction to exceptionality. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R. & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2007). Exceptional lives: Special education in today's schools. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

Smith, D., & Tyler, N. (2014). Speech and Language Impairments. In Introduction to contemporary special education: New horizons. Boston: Pearson Education.

Accommodations/Modifications for Speech-Language and Related Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2018, from http://www.fentress.k12tn.net/countywide/AccMod.pdf

Do2Learn: Educational Resources for Special Needs. (2013, January 1). Retrieved March 29, 2018, from http://www.do2learn.com/disabilities/CharacteristicsAndStrategies/SpeechLanguageImpairment_Strategies.html

Eggleston, L., & Larson, L. (2007, June 18). 06/18/07: Curriculum Modifications for Language Impairment. Retrieved March 29, 2018, from http://speech-language-pathology-audiology.advanceweb.com/article/061807-curriculum-modifications-for-language-impairment.aspx

Adjustments for students with a speech-language impairment. (2015, January 1). Retrieved March 29, 2018, from http://education.qld.gov.au/staff/learning/diversity/educational/sli.html