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Children and Speech or Language Impairments

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  • Synopsis: A speech or language impairment means an impairment of speech or sound production fluency voice or language - Published: 2009-10-14. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

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A speech or language impairment means an impairment of speech or sound production, fluency, voice or language which significantly affects a child's educational performance or their social, emotional or vocational development.

Definition of a Speech or Language Impairment

A speech or language impairment means an impairment of speech or sound production, fluency, voice or language which significantly affects a child's educational performance or their social, emotional or vocational development. The child may stutter or experience problems with articulating words. They may have a lisp or voice impairment. Children who have a hearing loss commonly experience difficulty with speech as well. Children with selective mutism may as well, as my children with ADHD.

An IEP team can assist in identification of a child as experiencing a speech or language impairment. There are certain criteria that such a team has to follow. If the child's conversational intelligibility is significantly affected and they, 'perform on a norm referenced test of articulation or phonology at least 1.75 standard deviations below the mean for his or her chronological age,' and, 'demonstrate consistent errors of speech sound production beyond the time when 90% of typically developing children have acquired sound,' the team may find that the child has a speech or language impairment. There are additional criteria as well.

For example, one or more of the child's phonological patterns of sound must be at least forty-percent disordered, or the child's scores in the moderate to profound range of the phonological process used in formal testing and the child's conversational intelligibility must be significantly impaired. The child's voice must be impaired in the absence of an acute respiratory virus or infection that is not due to temporary factors like allergies, puberty, or short-term vocal abuse. The child might exhibit unusual loudness, pitch, quality or resonance for their age and gender. They may exhibit behaviors that are characteristic of fluency disorder. The IEP team will look to see if the child's receptive or expressive language interferes with oral communication, or their main means of communication.

Speech and Language; What's the Difference

Language is a system of codes and patterns that have meaning. Letters are symbols that represent sounds. Letters, in particular combinations, form words, with each word standing for something. Words in combinations make sentences, allowing for complex communication. Should a child be unable to process any of the, 'codes,' such as misuse of pronouns like, 'you,' instead of, 'I,' or an inability to put words together in order to form a sentence; they have a language impairment. There is a difference; however, between young children who make mistakes learning language and children who experience persistent and ongoing difficulties.

Speech is the mechanical process of the person's body through which language is spoken. Speech involves the person's lips, teeth, tongue, throat, vocal chords, lungs, as well as additional body processes. If a child has experienced a medical procedure that affects one of these parts of the body, for example, it has the potential to affect their speech, while their ability to process language remains unchanged. Many times a child with a speech impairment will also have a form of language impairment or vice-versa.

Professionals and Speech/Language Impairments

Professionals that work with children who experience speech and language disorders are known as, 'Speech-Language Pathologists.' Many people refer to them as, 'Speech Therapists.' Speech-Language Pathologists have completed a Certificate of Clinical Competence and have a graduate degree; they have been observed in clinical practice and have passed a national examination. One reference concerning professionals and speech-language impairments is ASHA www.asha.org/. Many public school systems; however, may have a means of locating a Speech-Language Pathologist that is less-expensive or free, and may work on site as well.

Speech/Language Impairment Facts

Speech and Language impairments have been actively studied for greater than forty years. The acquisition of language is a main area of concern as a child grows and develops. There are no clear causes related to speech or language impairments such as hearing loss or low IQ. The condition appears in young children and may persist into adulthood, and while the causes are not known there is research that focuses on potentially inherited tendencies. Early identification and intervention are best in order to prevent potential academic interference.

Specific Language Impairment (SLI) has a number of different names is common. SLI is one of several communication disorders which affect greater than one-million students who attend public schools. Other names for SLI include language delay, developmental Dysphasia, or developmental language disorder. SLI is the name that opens doors to research concerning how to assist a child to both grow and learn. SLI prevalent in as many as seven to eight percent of children in kindergarten. By comparison, Down syndrome or autism affects less than one-percent of five-year olds.

When a child talks late it may be a sign of a disability. As a child goes from age two and becomes three or four years old, they have an incredible number of ways to tell adults what they want or need. Even if words do not sound right, a developing child will make efforts to communicate and make their point effectively. Children ask a number of questions, many times exhausting their parents and caretakers. Children who do not ask questions or tell adults what it is that they want or need may have a communication disorder. Children with SLI may not talk until they are almost two years old; by age three they may talk but cannot be understood. As they grow they will struggle with learning new words, making conversation and sounding intelligible.

Children with SLI do not have a low IQ or poor hearing. There are several additional disabilities that involve communication difficulties, but for children with these disabilities the primary diagnosis may be mental retardation, autism, a hearing loss, or cerebral palsy. Child with SLI often score among average to above average for nonverbal intelligence, and a hearing loss is not present. Their motor skills, social-emotional development, as well as their neurological profiles are all average; their only setback is language, with SLI being the primary diagnosis.

A speech impediment is different from a language disorder. Children with a speech disorder make errors in word pronunciation, or stutter. Studies have found that the majority of children with SLI do not experience a speech disorder; SLI is a language disorder. What this means is that a child has difficulty with both understanding and using words in sentences. Their receptive and expressive skills are commonly affected.
An indicator of SLI is an incomplete understanding of verbs on the part of the child. A five-year old child with SLI sounds about two years younger than they are; listen to the way the child uses verbs. There are common errors that the child will make, such as dropping the, 's,' off present-tense verbs, or asking questions without the usual, 'be,' or, 'do,' verbs. For example, instead of saying, 'She rides the bus,' the child might say, 'She ride the bus.' They may say,' He like me' Instead of, 'Does he like me' Children with SLI may have trouble communicating an action that is complete because they drop the past tense ending from a verb. For example, the child may say, 'You paint yesterday,' instead of, 'you painted yesterday.'

A child's reading and learning are affected by SLI. Specific Language Impairment affects a child's academic success, particularly if it remains untreated. Forty to seventy-five percent of children have difficulty with learning to read. SLI can be diagnosed both accurately and precisely. Clinical practice is catching up with advances in research, which has documented the ways that SLI occurs. In 2001, the Psychological Corporation released the first comprehensive test for SLI; the Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. Speech-Language Pathologists can use the test with children between the ages of three and eight years. The test points to specific gaps in a child's language abilities, giving them the ability to apply more effective treatment.

While the genetic origin of SLI has not been proven yet, studies show that fifty to seventy-percent of children with SLI have at least one family member who also has SLI. Researchers are studying twins in search of a genetic link. British researchers, in 2001, successfully found the chromosome that affected fifteen of thirty-seven members of a London family with profound speech and language impairments.

Children with SLI need additional opportunities to both talk and listen; yet due to their disability may be presented to fewer chances. Children with SLI who cannot get their message across may simply stop trying. Interactions are particularly difficult with other children because they are less supportive. It is immensely important to provide children with SLI with the additional supports they need.

Early intervention can begin as soon as preschool. By the time a child is five years old, a parent can receive a conclusive diagnosis. Parents of children with SLI can equip their child for success by the time their child is age three or four, leading to positive experiences for their child in kindergarten. There are some preschool programs that are designed to enhance the language development of students with disabilities. The focus of class activities can be role-playing, sharing time, or hands-on lessons with new, interesting vocabulary. These kinds of preschools encourage interactions between children, building layers of language experiences. Preschools such as these may even include techniques from speech pathology which solicit from children the very kinds of practices they need in order to build their language skills. Parents may also choose to send their preschool-age child with SLI to a speech-language pathologist in private practice, who can assess the child's needs, engage them in structured activities, and send them home with materials that can enrich their lives.








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