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Speech and Language Disorder: A Common Learning Disability.

Updated on September 13, 2019
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects including education and creative writing.

from the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, University of Buffalo, SUNY.
from the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, University of Buffalo, SUNY. | Source

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, a special education 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 by-product.

Although speech and language disorders are usually clumped together under one designation – when written into a student's individual education plan (IEP) – they affect the students in different ways.

Language disorder deals with the students comprehend oral communications from others.

Speech Disorder

A speech disorder is when students have trouble producing speech sounds correctly, fluently, or there are problems with their voice (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2012). According to ASHA’s website, an example of these conditions are:

  • difficulties pronouncing sounds or phonemes,
  • articulation disorders, and
  • stuttering.

Another website from an AHSA certified speech-language pathologist, Katie Pedersen (M.Ed CCC-SLP), listed several form of speech disorders on her website. Unfortunately, the site is offline; however, other bloggers -- mainly speech therapists and teachers, have kept components of her work,Let's Grow Speech alive. Pedersen book/blog mentioned the following:

  • Articulation disorders: when speech sounds are made incorrectly. For example, one may use /w/ for /r/ when pronouncing a word.
  • Phonological disorders contain “consistent patterns of sound errors.” The example she gave was replacing sounds usually made in the back of the mouth (/k/ and /g/) with sounds made in the front (/t/ and /d/).
  • Stuttering: A disorder affecting speech fluency which results in the repetition or prolongation of sounds or words, making speech sound bumpy or tense (Pederson, 2014).
  • Voice disorders: vocal cords are either damaged or not working properly.
  • Apraxia of speech: problem with speech associated with possible brain damage. According to Pederson, this results in trouble sequencing the sounds or syllables of speech.
  • Dysarthria: the muscles associated with the creation of speech are weak. Strokes or other forms of brain injury can cause this. The effect is the individual’s inability to speak clearly.

Language Disorder

Language disorder deals with the students comprehend oral communications from others. ASHA defines language disorders as “a person having trouble understanding others or having difficulty sharing thoughts, ideas or feelings.”

In addition, language disorders divide into two parts. They are:

  • Receptive Language Disorder: having trouble understanding others, and
  • Expressive Language: the inability to communicate thoughts or feelings to others.

speech therapy in session: Originally posted for -- West Virginia University website
speech therapy in session: Originally posted for -- West Virginia University website

Possible Causes

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.

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.

Using Accommodations

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.

More on Speech and Language Disorders

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Dean Traylor


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    • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

      Dean Traylor 

      5 years ago from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story)

      Actually, it can be caused by several factors. One thing I remember from my studies is that some it is caused by deformities or delayed development within the mouth (palate, tongue, top of throat) and/or brain (processing issues). Environmental factors as you mention can be a possibility; however, it's not always the cause. I have an adopted son who had delays do to the negligence of his mother. Once he was placed in foster care and eventually with us, his speech not only improved, but surpassed his age range.

    • Arco Hess Designs profile image

      Arco Hess 

      5 years ago from Kansas City, Kansas

      I once read that many language delays are due to lack of communication between child and adult. Is there any truth to this?


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