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What Are the Foundations of Communication Disorders?
  • School-based speech-language services have existed for the last 100 years. Since the 1950s, many significant changes have occurred in these services. Today, speech-language pathologists collaborate with teachers to support communication development.
  • Communication encompasses both language and speech. Speech is the integration of the four systems of respiration, voicing, resonance, and articulation. Language is made up of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.
  • IDEA defines a speech or language impairment as a communication disorder, including stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines a speech disorder as an impairment of the articulation of speech sound, fluency, or voice. It defines a language disorder as the impairment or deviant development of comprehension or use of spoken, written, and other symbol systems.
  • About 2.3% of students ages 6 to 17 receive services for speech and language impairments under IDEA. Communication disorders is the second largest category of primary disabilities under IDEA 04. Almost 22% of all children who received services for disabilities under IDEA received services for speech or language disorders.
What Are the Causes and Characteristics of Communication Disorders?
  • Causes of communication disorders may be congenital or acquired, organic or functional.
  • Causes of primary language disorders are typically functional and nonorganic. A primary language disorder that is functional, nonorganic is called a specific language impairment. Research shows that environment and biological factors may be related to its cause.
  • Articulation disorders may be caused by organic factors. Voice disorders may be caused by a large number of interacting organic and functional factors. Fluency disorders may be caused by neurological damage or by psychological factors.
  • Characteristics of primary language disorders, or specific language impairments, differ with the components of language involved. Cultural or regional language differences are not disorders.
  • Characteristics of secondary language disorders vary based on the associated primary disability.
  • Characteristics of speech disorders are related to the type of disorder—articulation, fluency, or voice disorders.
How Are Students with Communication Disorders Identified?
  • Identification of students with communication disorders involves gathering information from several individuals and several types of procedures in several settings.
  • Language disorders are usually identified using standardized, norm-referenced tests; informal measures; and the observations of those with whom the child interacts.
  • Speech disorders may be identified using an articulation test, the evaluation of a child's ability to produce speech sounds in different situations, a measure of auditory discrimination ability, the determination of whether a child hears differences in speech, an evaluation of fluency, an assessment of voice, a hearing test, a case history, an examination of the child's work, and checklists or scales.
  • Evaluation of children who are linguistically diverse may be affected by the fact that identification tools use Standard American English. When assessing children with limited English proficiency, basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) should be considered.
What and How Do I Teach Students with Communication Disorders?
  • Most students with a communication disorder will need speech and language intervention as well as attention paid to their academic and social skills.
  • Goals and objectives for students with communication disorders should be designed for the general education classroom.
  • The instruction of students with communication disorders should take place in natural environments.
  • For students with language disorders, both language comprehension and expression should be taught.
  • Instruction for students with speech disorders will depend on the specific disorder. Goals for speech disorders should be stressed in the general education classroom even if the student participates in pullout therapy.
  • Instructional procedures for students with communication disorders typically involve support services from and collaboration with speech-language pathologists to ensure that targeted goals in speech and language are being addressed in the natural environments.
What Are Other Instructional Considerations for Teaching Students with Communication Disorders?
  • The physical environment should encourage communication.
  • There are several service delivery options for students with communication disorders. The most frequently used are the pullout service delivery model and the collaborative consultation model.
  • Within the classroom, group work and peer interaction can support language and speech development for students with communication disabilities.
  • Augmentative and alternative communication devices may assist students with communication disorders. These may be unaided or aided systems. In addition, several technologies are available to assist students with fluency disorders. The teacher should be well acquainted with any communication technology used both to assist the student and to explain its use to the rest of the class.
What Are Some Considerations for the General Education Teacher?
  • Most students with communication disorders will spend all or some of their time in the general education classroom.
  • Educational planning needs to be a collaborative effort involving teachers and speech-language pathologists.

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