Understanding Speech and Language Disorders

Speech therapy
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A student with a learning disability whereby he/she has difficulties with comprehension and/or verbal/oral or written communication may have a language disorder. It may or may not be a direct result of something neurological, physical or psychological in nature.


A student that exhibits articulation difficulties and or impairments that can be a direct result of neurological, physical or psychological factors may have a speech disorder. Voice fluency is usually missing. Sometimes a child will have both language and speech delays. Note: language delays include lack of understanding, comprehension and the ability to relay thoughts.

Both disorders can have significan impact on the child's ability to learn. Typically in most jurisdictions, speech/language pathologists will do an assessment which helps to determine the extent of the disorder. A speech and language pathologist will also and provide recommendations for for the Individual Education Program (IEP) along with suggestions for support at home. Once again, early intervention is crucial.

Best Practices

  • Teachers will want to reduce un-necessary classroom noise as much as possible. This helps the child focus without contending with the extraneous noises which assists understanding and comprehension.
  • Be sure to be near the student when giving vocal instructions and ask the student to repeat the instructions and prompt when necessary. Provide verbal clues often.
  • Provide a quiet spot for the student to work whenever possible.
  • Speak slowly and deliberately.
  • Provide visual cues - on the blackboard or chart paper.
  • Focus the student frequently and provide step by step directions - repeating when necessary.
  • Use gestures that support understanding.
  • Avoid correcting speech difficulties - this will lead to a weaker self esteem, it's much more important to model correct speech patterns.
  • Touch base with the speech/language pathologist to ensure the correct accommodations are in place.
  • The learning environment needs to be positive.
  • Capitalize on the student's strengths as much as possible.
  • Be patient when the child is speaking, rushing a child with difficulties magnifies the frustration level.