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6: Students with Communication Disorders

  • Page ID
    178828

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    Communication is the expression of thoughts, including ideas, feelings, and opinions, between two or more people using language and speech. Language is a rule-governed system of symbols that people use to communicate. Speech is the physical ability to articulate language. Language may also be expressed using sign languages such as American Sign Language. Speech consists of five integrated systems:

    • Respiration (i.e., the breathing that supports speech);
    • Voicing (i.e., the sound powered by the vocal folds and chords);
    • Resonance (i.e., the means by which sound is changed as it travels through the cavities of the neck and head); and
    • Articulation (i.e., the formulation of speech sounds by the lips, tongue, and other structures).

    Fluent speech also requires the use of concepts such as stress, pitch, timing, and loudness to impart meaning. For example, in American English, there is usually a rise in pitch at the end of a question (Smiley et al., 2022).

    Language also has five components: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. These concepts are defined below in the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association (ASHA) definition of language disorders. However, a few additional definitions in relation to these concepts are also important. For example, phonology is the sound system of a language and the rules that govern sound combinations (ASHA, 1993). The smallest unit of speech that distinguishes one word from another is the phoneme. An example of a phoneme is a consonant such as “p” or “b” that distinguishes “tap” from “tab” (Smiley et al., 2022). Each of these words is the same except for the final phoneme.

    Morphology is the system that governs the structure of words and the construction of word forms (ASHA, 1993). A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in the grammar of a language. Morphemes may be free or bound. Free morphemes have meaning on their own and may not be broken into smaller units and still maintain their meaning (e.g., dog). A bound morpheme has meaning only when attached to another morpheme. For example, “s” alone has no meaning, but when it is attached to “dog,” as in “dogs,” it means more than one (Smiley et al., 2022).

    In addition, language also includes nonlinguistic cues such as gestures, body posture, proximity, eye contact, and facial expressions. Communication requires using both linguistic and nonlinguistic components of language. In school, a student must also learn about the rules governing the use of language in different settings (e.g., in the classroom versus on the playground). For example, cheering and clapping is an appropriate way to communicate praise when a teammate makes a goal, but cheering and clapping is not appropriate when a peer answers a math question correctly. Culture also plays a role in communication and may influence both linguistic and nonlinguistic components of language. For example, in certain cultures making eye contact with a teacher is a sign of disrespect. Educators and clinicians need to be aware of these cultural differences to assess the student appropriately and help the student master the communication rules used in school (Smiley et al., 2022).


    Smiley, L. R., Richards, S.B., & Taylor, R. (2022). Exceptional students: Preparing teachers for the 21st century (4th ed.). McGraw Hill.

    • 6.1: Definitions of Communication Disorders
      The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines a speech or language impairment as the following:
    • 6.2: The History of Communication Disorders
      In 1925, the American Academy of Speech Correction, ASHA’s original predecessor, was founded at an informal meeting of the National Association of Teachers of Speech. This organization was originally composed of teachers working in the areas of rhetoric, debate, and theater, and its members were becoming increasingly interested in the scientific study of speech correction.
    • 6.3: Prevalence and Causes of Communcation Disorders
      Among students receiving special education services, 19% are identified as having a speech or language impairment (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022).
    • 6.4: Characteristics of Students with Communication Disorders
      The characteristics of students with communication disorders vary depending on the components of language or speech that are affected. A speech disorder is an impairment of the articulation of speech sounds, fluency, voice, or all three.
    • 6.5: Identifying Students with Communication Disorders
      School-age children should be screened for communication disorders in the early grades; however, universal screenings may not identify all existing problems. Therefore, classroom teachers and other professionals who work with students play a significant role in the identification and referral of students with possible communication disorders.
    • 6.6: Chapter Questions and References


    This page titled 6: Students with Communication Disorders is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Diana Zaleski (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .

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