Speech Impairments

Speech impairments interfere with communication, learning, vocational training, and social adjustment. They include disorders of language, articulation, fluency, or voice. Some examples of speech impairments are cleft lip and/or palate, difficulties in projection, as in chronic hoarseness and esophageal speech, and fluency problems, as in stuttering and nominal aphasia, that alters the articulation of particular words or term.

Some speech difficulties can be managed by such mechanical devices as electronic "speaking" machines or computerized voice synthesizers. Other individuals may be treated through speech therapy. Any speech impairment can be aggravated by the anxiety inherent in oral communication.

The most important element in teaching students with speech impairments is patience. Guidelines listed in the "General Procedures" section may apply to teaching these students. The following are some additional strategies for enhancing effectiveness in the classroom.

  • Give students the opportunity, but do not force them to speak in class. Calling on them and putting them "on the spot" will only serve to increase their anxiety levels.
  • Permit students the time they require to express themselves, without unsolicited aid in filling in gaps in their speech.
  • Maintain comfortable eye contact and posture with the student at all times.
  • Address students naturally and in a regular speaking voice. Do not assume that they cannot hear or comprehend what you are saying.
  • Consider course modifications, such as one-to-one presentations and the use of a computer with a voice synthesizer, in lieu of a traditional oral presentation.