Communication Impairments

How does IDEA define Communication Impairments?

Here is the specific definition of speech and language impairment from section 300.7(c) of the IDEA regulations.

11)  Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Some people have such severe speech and language impairments that they are unable to speak. Some cannot use the muscles in their mouth well. Others are unable to think of the word they want to say and may use a different word instead. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a term used to describe items that are used to help a person communicate when their spoken communication is not effective.

Communication occurs with at least one other person and in the context of the environment, and serves 1) to indirectly control the environment; 2) to regulate social interactions; and 3) to receive and convey information and ideas. AAC is used to increase a child's ability to communicate. It can include less sophisticated means of communication such as facial expressions, non-speech vocalizations, idiosyncratic gestures, etc as well as formal, high tech communication devices It is used when a child does not develop communication in the normal fashion, or experiences a significant delay in development.

Common Assistive Technology Devices used by Children with Communication Impairments

Students with severe expressive communication impairments have difficulty communicating with peers and adults within their environments. Many of these students need a means of supplementing their communication skills. These students frequently use augmentative communication technology. A range of low technology to high technology solutions are available including:

  • Object-based communication displays
  • Picture communication boards and books
  • Alphabet boards
  • Talking switches
  • Low technology voice output communication devices
  • Middle technology voice output communication devices
  • High technology voice output communication devices
  • Integrated communication solutions

It is important to remember that a student with communication impairment may have trouble with other functional life skills (e.g. reading, writing, recreation and leisure). See the Overview of assistive technology link for suggestions regarding assistive technology for other functional life skills, which may be of benefit to students with auditory disabilities.

Other Communication Impairments Websites

AAC Intervention

Linda Burkhart

International Society for Alternative and Augmentative Communication (ISAAC)

Do 2 Learn

Georgia Project for Assistive Technology