Teaching Students with Speech Impairments
Speech impairments can have many causes: neurological conditions such as Tourette's Syndrome, stuttering, surgical removal of the larynx, stroke, traumatic head injury, degenerative illness, or psychological disability. Students with speech impairments may exhibit such obvious signs as stuttering or speaking with a limited voice, or they may not speak at all. Some students communicate by writing notes, pointing to communication boards, using electronic speech synthesizers, or through assistants who interpret their speech to other people.
The following suggestions will guide you when communicating with a student who has a speech impairment.
- Keep in mind that a speech impairment does not imply that the student also has a hearing impairment. The student may be able to hear just fine.
- In communicating with students who have speech impairments, it is appropriate to ask the student to repeat if you do not understand them. Students with speech impairments are accustomed to being asked to repeat and are usually not offended by such requests.
- While students with speech impairments should be free to participate as other students in class do, avoid pressuring them to perform orally. The key is to be patient and give the student time to speak without supplying words or finishing sentences.
- Meet with students early in the quarter to discuss their communication styles and how they can best function in your classroom. Will they be able to answer if you call on them? Will they be able to ask questions, participate in class, and make oral presentations? If not, are there other ways the students can demonstrate competency: for example by completing extra essays or projects?
- If a communication assistant accompanies the student to class, address your comments and questions to the student, not the assistant.
- If the student's speech impairment is caused by stroke or head injury, additional accommodations may be needed such as extended time on exams, classmate's notes, and accessible technology.