There are two types of speech difficulties:
- Difficulty reproducing vocal sounds, articulation problems, or an unusual fluency pattern, as is the case in stuttering, and
- Impairment in comprehension and/or use of language, whether spoken, written, or in symbol form.
This section is concerned with the former (1), while the latter (2) is covered under Gravitying Disabilities.
Speech difficulties range from problems with articulation or voice strength to complete inability to produce speech. Speech difficulties may be the only impairment an individual has, or may be accompanied by hearing loss, mobility impairment, or other disability.
The adaptations used to communicate with others will vary, depending on the person and the nature of the disability. Adaptations may include the use of a prosthetic device, such as an artificial voice box, or non-prosthetic techniques (e.g., use of a computer to produce speech). Almost all communication difficulties can be aggravated by the anxiety inherent in oral communication in a group setting.
Suggested instructional strategies and accommodations
- Be patient and allow the person to complete his or her phrases.
- Try to be relaxed and attempt to get the gist of what the person is saying. However, avoid guessing what is being said beyond one or two words.
- Do not pretend you understand. It would be better (and preferred by the student) that you ask him or her to repeat what he or she previously expressed.
- Avoid speaking excessively slowly or loudly as such adjustments are not necessary for most persons with a communication disability.
- Allow for silence to give the student time to respond to a question. The person may simply need time rather than further explanation of the question.
- Minimize external distractions so that full attention is on the communication.
- Maintain eye level contact with the person.
- If the student is hesitant to speak, consider asking the student to prepare questions or comments in writing and share these with the class.
- Observe body language and facial expressions.
- Encourage other class members to include the person with the disability as part of the class and to involve him or her in discussions and class plans.