Speech or Language Impairments (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Causes of Speech or Language Impairments

In most cases, specific causes of speech and language disorders are unknown. Some children have severe language delays during early childhood development, but reasons for the delay are unknown. Voice disorders can be caused by growths, infections, or trauma to the larynx (structure containing the vocal cords); infections of the tonsils, adenoid glands, or sinuses; or physical disorders such as cleft palate, in which the upper part of the oral cavity is split (Moore & Hicks, 1994). The cause of stuttering is presently unknown (Conture, 1989; Owens, Metz, & Haas, 2003).

Issues in Identification and Assessment of Communication Disorders

Parents are usually the first to identify a potential speech or language problem, when, for example, their 2-year-old has not begun to develop language. Primary school teachers may be the first to refer a child for a speech and language evaluation when they notice problems with speech or language. Frequently administered tests include articulation tests, auditory discrimination tests, language development tests, vocabulary tests, and language samples taken from a variety of social contexts.

Classroom Adaptations for Students with Speech or Language Impairments

It is important to provide an open, accepting classroom environment to promote acceptance, decrease anxiety, and minimize opportunities for ridicule.

Adapt the Physical Environment

Place students with communication disorders near the front of the room for easier listening. This will also enable easier access if they need help or if you have devised a special cueing system with them for responding orally in class. The following In the Classroom feature provides a checklist for considerations for adaptations in the physical environment.

Adapt Materials

Allow students to use any technology that may help them with their disability area. For example, perhaps they can prerecord aniticpated responses on audiotapes, videotapes, or computers, and then play that recording for the class.

Use Alternative or Augmentative Communication. Adaptive communication methods are referred to as Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) techniques. AAC symbols and techniques fall into two broad categories—aided and unaided. Aided communication involves the use of some external device, such as simple handmade materials, a picture board, or more sophisticated computer-assisted devices. Unaided communication does not involve any apparatus other than the individual’s own body. Examples include manual signing, making physical gestures, miming, pointing, and moving the eyes (Lloyd, Fuller, & Arvidson, 1997).

Alternative communication techniques involve the use of communication boards to assist communication. Communication boards contain pictures or words of commonly asked questions and responses to questions. When asking or responding to questions, students can point to the picture that communicates what they mean. Pointing devices that attach to the head can be used for students who have difficulty pointing with their hands or fingers. When the AAC user is unable to point, a communication partner can help identify the correct symbol. Some commercially available boards, such as the Touch Talker or LightTalker available from the Prentke Romich Company, produce speech output when the corresponding symbol or picture is touched (Lloyd, Fuller, & Arvidson, 1997).

More recent advances in technology have also incorporated the use of synthesized speech sounds when using some alternative communication devices. Students can type information into computers, and computers will produce the speech output for them using a variety of tones.

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