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California State University, Long Beach
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Faculty Handbook: Communication Disabilities

Communication disabilities may include one or more forms of speech or language disorders affecting the receptive or expressive processes of language, voice articulation, and nominal aphasia (difficulty evoking the appropriate word or term); to name a few. Speech impairments may be congenital or the result of illness or injury. In most cases, college students with speech impairments will have received some speech therapy.

Many speech impaired students will be hesitant about participating in activities that require speaking. Even if the student has adjusted well to speech impairment, new situations may aggravate old anxieties. It is important that self-expression be encouraged, but pressure to speak is not apt to be helpful. It is important to allow time for the speech impaired student to express him/herself so that confidence can be gained.

Strategies for working with students with communication disabilities:

  • Maintain eye contact.
  • It is important to overcome the urge to interrupt or try to complete a sentence or train of thought for a student. Trying to anticipate the question being asked can be embarrassing and/or frustrating.
  • Focus on what the person is saying, rather than how it is being said.
  • Speaking in front of a crowd can be an agonizing experience for anyone; this may be especially true for the speech-impaired student.
  • It is very important to speak naturally to a speech impaired person.

Do not hesitate to ask for repetition of words or phrases. Most students with speech impairments would rather repeat the message than have someone ignore or pretend to understand what they are saying.

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