Speech Impairments

What are Speech Impairments?

The cause of speech impairments can vary greatly due to the fact they may be caused by several different things. A hearing loss, illness, injury, and congenital or psychological conditions most often cause speech impairments. Speech impairments range from problems with voice strength and articulation to an inability to speak at all.

Many students with speech impairments have had some form of speech therapy at some point in their life unless the impairment is recent. The most common impairments are stuttering, chronic hoarseness, difficulty in evoking an appropriate word or term, and esophageal speech which results from a laryngectomy.

Students with speech impairments are often uncomfortable with speaking in class and may be reluctant to do so at all. New situations often make the student anxious and cause the speech impairment to resurface even when they appear to have adjusted well.

How can the professor help?

The professor should strongly encourage self-expression but be careful not to pressure the student to speak. Give the student the opportunity to participate in class discussions as much as possible, even if extra time is necessary. However, take into consideration the fact that speaking in front of a group of people can be an agonizing experience for the student.

Below is a list of recommended instructional strategies that the professor may find helpful when assisting a student with speech impairments. Remember these are only suggestions and when in doubt on how to help a student, ask him or her how you can best be of assistance.


  • Encourage participation, but do not require a student with a difficulty in communicating to speak in front of the class.
  • Allow students who are unable to communicate verbally an alternate way to do so, either by means of a typewriter, word processor, sign board, or interpreter in class.
  • If you do not understand what has been said, do not pretend to know; tell the student you do not understand and allow him/her to repeat it.
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