Speech Disabilities

Speech communication disabilities range from problems with articulation or voice strength to complete voicelessness. Students with a speech communication based disability could include a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a person with a learning disability, or a person with numerous other possible primary disability classifications. A range of observable difficulties, but may include projection difficulties, as in chronic hoarseness and esophageal speech; fluency problems, as in stuttering and stammering; and the nominal aphasia that alters the articulation of particular words or terms.

Some of these difficulties can be managed by such mechanical devices as electronic “speaking” machines or computerized voice synthesizers. Others may be treated through speech therapy or other compensatory strategies. All of the difficulties can be aggravated by the anxiety inherent in oral communication in a group.
Patience is therefore an effective strategy for students with speech disabilities. Other strategies are listed below and some may require collaboration among the faculty member, the student, and the disability service provider at a particular college.

Best Practices:

  • Give students the opportunity —but do not compel them—to speak in class.
  • Permit students the time they require to express themselves, without unsolicited aid in filling in gaps in their speech. Don’t be reluctant to ask the student to repeat a statement.
  • Address students naturally. Don’t assume the “spread phenomenon”—that they cannot hear or comprehend.
  • Consider course modifications, such as one-to-one presentations and the use of a computer with a voice synthesizer.