Speech impairments can make it hard to communicate. Someone with a speech impairment
may have trouble with:
articulation (production of speech sounds)
voice (pitch, resonance, or loudness)
fluency (flow of speech)
Some kids and teens with speech impairments have oral–motor problems. This
means there's inefficient communication in the areas of the brain responsible for
speech production. Speech impairments also can be:
part of a more general developmental delay
related to medical conditions, such as a hearing impairment, weak muscles around
the mouth, cleft lip or
palate, vocal nodules or hoarseness,
autism, or a breathing
or swallowing disorder
stammering is a problem that interferes with fluent speech.
Lisping is an articulation disorder. It refers to a specific substitution involving
the letters "s" and "z." A person who lisps replaces those sounds with "th."
Students with speech impairments may:
feel nervous, embarrassed, and frustrated when they're talking in class
have to miss class time to attend speech
therapy programs, in or out of school
use relaxation techniques to help them speak more clearly
need more time to answer oral questions in class or for tests
need seating accommodations, such as sitting in a front row, if their speech problems
are related to a hearing impairment
use assistive technology to better communicate in class
Bullies may target students with speech impairments.
What Teachers Can Do
Speech impairments can isolate students from their classmates. So it's essential
that teachers give students help and support. Be patient when students with speech
impairments are speaking. Be a role model to your other students about the importance
of not interrupting and letting people finish their own sentences.
Ask questions in a way that lets the student give a brief answer, or consider substituting
written work for oral presentations.
Consult with your student's speech therapist, other special educators, or parents
to learn about specific needs. You can also talk privately with the student to find
out what's helpful and what's not.