Speech and language disorders are possibly the most common forms of learning disabilities found among school-age children. The conditions associated with it are usually minor and can be treated with the help of a speech therapist, an RSP teacher, or a reading specialist.
These conditions may not impact the students’ ability as much as other conditions. Still, they can cause delays in areas of language learning such as oral comprehensions, phonemic awareness, and articulation. Also, stuttering or stammering can be a byproduct.
Although speech and language disorders are usually clumped together under one designation – when written into an individual education plan – they affect the students in different ways.
A speech disorder is when students have trouble producing speech sounds correctly or fluently or has problems with their voice (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2012). According to ASLHA’s website, an example of these conditions can be difficulties pronouncing sounds or phonemes, articulation disorders, and stuttering.
Language disorder deals with the students comprehend oral communications from others. ASLHA defines language disorders as “a person having trouble understanding others or having difficulty sharing thoughts, ideas or feelings.”
Also, language disorders are often divided into two parts. There’s the receptive language disorder (having trouble understanding others) and expressive language (inability to communicate thoughts or feelings to others).
These conditions do not have one definitive cause. There are several. In many cases, slight deformities or slow physical development in the student’s mouth (such as the tongue or upper palette) have been responsible for childhood speech and language disorders.
There is evidence that damage to the brain – in particular the part that processes speech and language – is a culprit. The damage may have been a result of an accident or by genetics.
The causes are not limited to genetics or biology. Accidents or diseases, in particular, those affecting the oral or neurological regions have been known to be factors. One such factor is a stroke which has caused language disorders in adults.
Often, speech and language disorders may require a minimum amount of accommodations in the classroom. In fact, those with speech disorders will either be pulled out of class for an hour each day or each week (depending on the severity of the case) or have speech therapy services in the classroom (this is known as a “pull-in” system and is practiced in various school districts throughout the United States).
Many students with these conditions will not require speech therapy services after middle school. A small number of students will continue this service through their high school years. Part of the reason is that the students develop speech and language skills early.
Those designated with the speech and language disorder label will most likely be exited from special education services by the time they finish their formal education, unless there are other learning disabilities affecting their ability to perform academically with their peers.
These conditions may hinder academic growth and may place a student behind his or her peers. However, it is, in most cases, mild and treatable.