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Office of Disability Support Services
Faculty Handbook

Speech Impairments

General Information

Speech impairments have many causes: hearing loss, illness, injury, and congenital or psychological conditions.

Speech impairments range from problems with articulation or voice strength to an inability to speak. Unless the impairment is recent, students with speech impairments generally have had some speech therapy. Among the more common speech impairments are stuttering, chronic hoarseness, difficulty in evoking an appropriate word or term, and esophageal speech (resulting from a laryngectomy).

Many students with speech impairments are reluctant to participate in activities that require speaking. New situations may stimulate previous anxieties even if the student has adjusted well to the impairment. Self-expression should be encouraged, however, pressure to speak is not likely to be helpful.

Various communication aids are available for students who cannot speak. Students who are able to type may use a portable word processor that displays words on a LED (speech output) screen, or provides synthesized audio output.

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Speaking Aids

For persons who cannot speak, and who are otherwise physically disabled so that they cannot sign, write, or type, various communication aids are available. These aids range from sophisticated electronic speaking machines, activated by punching a keyboard with a head pointer or mouth wand, to a spelling board that consists of a layout of the alphabet and a few common words and phrases (yes or no) to which a speech impaired person points and an assistant may speak out loud. Some devices display the message on a calculator-like screen across which the characters move. With some less portable devices, the message is displayed on a TV screen. These students need respect, patience, quiet encouragement, and an opportunity to develop self-confidence in an unfamiliar setting.

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Suggested Classroom Accommodations
for Students with Speech Impairments

Information regarding Instructor Memos

Specific accommodations will need to be individually tailored because these students will vary depending on the type and degree of their speech loss or impairment. Usually a combination of adaptive methods is the best approach.

  • Encourage the use of a laptop computer with LED display and printer or a laptop voice synthesized computer.
  • Utilize a communication board when necessary.
  • Incorporate hands on and lab experiences when appropriate.

Test Adaptation and Administration
for Students with Speech Impairments

  • Permit the use of special word processors.
  • Permit the student to fulfill the assignment with a written rather than oral report.
  • When and where appropriate utilize Reader Services to administer tests. Discuss arrangements early in the semester.

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Tips for Positive Communication
with Students with Speech Impairments

  • The ability to understand impaired speech improves with continued exposure and listening, as does the ability to understand a foreign accent.
  • Do not provide words or complete sentences for a person who stutters or speaks with difficulty. Permit the person to complete his or her own thoughts.
  • Provide students the opportunity to participate in class discussions as much as possible, even if extra time is necessary.
  • If the course requires verbal communication and the student is unable to communicate verbally, arrange for alternative methods through the use of a  word processor, or sign board.
  • Encourage participation, but do not require a student with a speech impairment to speak in front of the class.
  • Ask the student to repeat a statement that is misunderstood due to his or her speech impairment.

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Office of Disability Support Services at Lansing Community College

Disability Support Services
Continental Bldg, Room 111
Phone: (517) 483-1924
Additional contact information »