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ESE504 : The Class : Advanced CD : Communications

Communications Disorders

Communicating, of course, is a lot more than speaking. Many of our most poignant moments are shared at the nonverbal level. Those of us who have pets know how much closeness and companionship is possible without a dialogue of words. And research on closeness shows that couples who have been married for many years have a sort of "telegraphed" set of meanings and share a great deal but talk less than newlyweds.

Choosing to share without speaking is not so tough, but being unable to talk or to share the richness of speech is difficult. Since language is a shared system for sharing ideas, exchanging information, expressing the richness of our internal being.

Communications disorders are a cluster of attributes or symptoms. Some are intertwined with other disorders -- for instance not being able to hear makes it difficult to learn to speak; speaking one language until 7 or 8 years of age makes it difficult to learn a new language without a strong accent; having a stroke may take away the ability to remember words or form concepts into verbalizations.

Communication: An intended message is sent by one person and received by the other
Language: formalized method of transmitting an idea to others Spoken Language:transfer of ideas and messages through formalized speech sounds Speech: vocalized sounds Might be a singing dog :~}


Communications disorders are often divided into two sub-areas
A speech disorder is has to do with the way the voice sounds - articulation, fluency, vocal tone or resonance
A language disorder reflects problems in receiving information, understanding the messages of others, being able to translate feelings or ideas into a symbolic response


Abnormal speech that is unintelligible, unpleasant, or interferes with communicating


Difficulty or inability to master the various systems of rules in a language that interferes with communicating


fluency - stuttering

voice tones - nasal quality, pitch, resonance, volume

phonology - how sounds are combined and changed in a language to alter word meaning

morphology - rules that explain the bits and pieces of the language that form plurals, tenses and part of speech

syntax - word order

semantics -content and meaning given to language sounds

pragmatics - social context

Signs of a possible speech impairment

Makes consistent, age-inappropriate articulation errors

Frequent repetitions, interruptions or prolongations in the flow of speech

Has poor voice qualities in pitch or production

Uses voice volume that is consistently inappropriate to situations


Signs of a possible language impairment

Has an inadequate vocabulary for age or development

Seems unable to convey messages or get points across to others

Appears to have trouble verbalizing / expressing needs

Is unable to follow oral directions

Unable to match letters with sounds when learning to read



Articulation Impairments = 47% Langauge Impairments = 47%
Vocal problems (pitch, loudness, quality) = 4% Stuttering (dysfluency) = 2%


Cultural differences

are not




Is the acquisition of language cultural?

How do children learn to speak?

Who teaches children the five kinds of language rules?

Do animals communicate? Do they use language? Syntax?

Helping the beginning learner aquire sounds

This is a chart of speech development

Click here to see a discussion showing the way children develop sounds and language.

You may want to see a language evaluation of toddler speech.

Read a few of the links that follow. When finished, list some of the things you feel may contribute to communication disorders. [15 points each-- 5 for locating a link, 10 more for reading and personally considering each one].

Personal notes

Speech and Language sites

WOW...great links

Foundations for Communication disorders

Stuttering home page

General information about communication disorders

Science of stuttering

American Speech-Lanaguage-Hearing Association (ASHA)

Cleft Palate - an infant who is loved

Cleft Palate - information

Speech-Language Pathology World

Early signs of communication disorders


Tips and Strategies

Educational Interventions
Personal Notes

Facilitated communications

Increasing social competence

General advice for enhancing communication in the home

Windows for learning language

Therapy for adult and child stuttering

Parents can help with stuttering

Learning to listen as key to reading - research

Early identification as key intervention strategy

Strategies and IEP ideas for hyperlexia


Meeting Student Needs and Promoting Communication and Personal Growth

Student action


Creative solution
Student refuses to speak in front of the class

Student - to be soothed - Safety - or in some situations, control


Increase the level of comfort and safety for the student and begin slowly - first talking with a buddy, and when ready, sharing with a group. Do not force a presentation.
Student stutters when talking

Student - fluency


Refer for speech assistance. Do not allow anyone to call attention to the stuttering or make fun of the youngster. Ask the therapist to give most recent research on supporting the student's progress.
Student raises hand and talks off the subject during instructional question and answer time Student - may have problem with pragmatics, need for attention, need for control Work to determine the reason for inappropriate responses. The student may not realize that when s/he is not talking, thinking and being is still occurring, may not pick up social context, may have issues with impulse control, may not be hearing, or organizing the content or context.

Fill in the next three cell rows, using the ideas you gain from experience, from materials in the text and in your web searches. Identify a likely student communication pattern that may hamper learning and then go through the process of defining needs, then finding a solution that allows everyone to get needs met [25 points have been allotted for this activity].

Delays in language development and communication skills often provide early alerts to other types of developmental delays. This chart provides an overview of common types of language impairment and conditions that are consistent with patterns of difficulties (adapted from Owens, R. E. (1995). Language disorders: A functional approach to assessment and intervention.)

  Attention Language rules Mental Ability Perception Use of Symbols
Language Delay
Learning Disability
Language Impairment
Mental Retardation
Traumatic Brain Injury

Communications Summary

Presented by Jill Stedman

Student at NAU

Chapter 8 – Students with Communication Problems Twenty-four million Americans struggle to communicate everyday. Communication problems can affect children and adults, however it affects them differently. There are two different ways a person can be affected, either through language or speech. To get a better understanding of what the problems are and how it affects people, we must get a better understanding of what speech and language are.

Language is defined as a system of symbols communities use to represent their environment, thoughts and emotions. While speech is the physical process involved in producing the sound and sound combinations of a language. So we see that speech and sound are interconnected in a way. Without one you can’t have the other. So lets look at why people have communication problems, what they are and how to help them fix them.

There are two main language disorders that stem from different things. A person will either have aphasia or a developmental language disorder. Those with the aphasia are usually older and have already mastered the language. They become impaired after some sort of traumatic accident where severe trauma affected the brain. This could be a head injury or a stroke or tumor. While the developmental language disorder is usually a child that was born with some sort of brain damage.

As teachers we will be dealing more with noticing and finding treatment for developmental problems. It usually is noticeable between the ages of 12 months to 6 years for those children with a developmental disorder. While we can’t usually find the cause of the deficiency, usually the child’s language difficulty can be characterized into one of a few groups. These are hearing problems, conceptual knowledge, cognitive processes, knowledge of language rules, comprehension of language, production and retrieval of language, communicative functioning or motor skills. These can be assessed by a speech pathologist and work with that trainer to overcome their difficulties.

Teachers and parents can also help in the process by supporting the child and watching the child to see if anything seems particularly hard for that child while at home or in the classroom. There are a lot more types of speech disorders than there are language disorders. Children (and adults) can have articulation disorders, a voice disorder, or a fluency disorder. Each one of these has its own causes and “’cures”, although not every child may completely overcome their disorder.

Articulation disorders can show up in four different forms. Substitution is when a replacement sound is added to a word. This happens when a “w” is used instead of an “r” in rabbit. Omission is when a sound is left out altogether. This happens when the “r” is completely left out and is the word is spoken abbit . Distortion is when a sound not from our language is used, such as the “s” sound that Daffy Duck uses. Last there is Addition, when a sound is added to a word that isn’t supposed to be there such as “atpple” for apple. These can be caused by either something organic or it can be functional.

Functional problems do not have a known cause; it only appears that it is a result of improper learning. Such things as short auditory memory span or phonetic discrimination could also play a part in a child’s ability to communicate correctly. Functional disorders can usually be completely cured. Organic problems do have actual causes. The two most common causes are cleft palate and cerebral palsy. There are surgeries that a person can have with cleft palate to fix some of the physical disorder, but those with cleft palate will most likely always have some sort of speech disorder during their lives. Those that do have these problems can be worked with to help make it easier to communicate with others.

There are a series of test with which they perform to come up with the proper way to help treat such disorders. The tests (assessments) are the articulation test, spontaneous speech sample, stimulability, and phonological process analysis. All of these assessments test different things and help to better narrow down the child’s (or adults) exact problem. A person with this sort of articulation disorder can go into therapy to learn how to correctly speak, although they will probably always struggle in their life to communicate really well.

The next kind of disorder with speech that a teacher must be aware of is problems with the voice. Children with these types of problems probably struggle with emotionally with something. There are three main types of voice disorders to look for. They are pitch disorders, loudness disorders and voice quality defects. These can usually be overcome, but how long it takes depends on the arrangement for treatment. There are many doctors that must be involved along with the parents and teachers to help the child to change the way that their voice sounds. Parents and teachers must be very careful when dealing with voice disorders, it is important that it is figure out whether there is a degenerative disease or not before they begin any vocal rehabilitation.

The last problems that people with speech disorders face are with fluency. There are many types of disfluency that a person can struggle with; stuttering (the most common), developmental disfluency, neurogenic disfluency, psychogenic disfluencies, and language delays. There are many types of treatment for these disorders, but generally a speech pathologist and the parents work together to figure out the best way to attack the disorder. With stuttering it is important that treatment begin right away so that it won’t make a huge impact on the educational development of the child. Those children that show emotionally based disfluencies (psychogenic disfluencies) are usually directed to a counselor or a psychiatrist of some sort so the child can deal with his/her emotions.

All of these communication difficulties can affect a child’s school and social life. With a child in a classroom all day it is imperative that they be able to understand everything that is going on and that they be able to appropriately respond to learning. Some of these disorders can have a harsh effect on the learning process. That is why it is so important that the child be appropriately pointed in the right direction as soon as possible. If the child doesn’t get the right treatment then it could affect his/her adult life.


Book List

Ewing, Susan Adair, & Pfalzgraf, Beth. (1990). Pathways. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press. The authors, two speech-language pathologists, share incidents of six families who cope with stroke and aphasia.

Hodgins, Eric (1964). Episode: Report on the accident inside my skull. New York: Atheneum. The author experienced aphasia and other sequelae following a stroke. This book describes his depression and frustration with various treatments.

Jezer, M. (1997). Stuttering: A life bound up in words. New York: Basic Books. The author never achieved fluency, despite numerous courses of treatment. His memoir tells of his experiences including his successes in professional and personal life.

Johnson, Fred K. (1990) Right hemisphere stroke. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press (1990). The author discusses personality changes and disorientation and also considers the possibility that some language functions are based in the right hemisphere.

Knox, David R. (1985). Portrait of aphasia. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press. Knox writes of his wife's aphasia, treatment, and recovery including a detailed account of emotional and physical challenges.

Luria, A. R. (1972). The man with a shattered world. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. The author shares the efforts of a brain-injured soldier, Zasetsky, to overcome impairments of memory, vision, speaking, reading, and writing.

McBride, Carmen. (1969). Silent victory. Chicago: Nelson-Hall. The narrative of a person with aphasia.

Moss, C. Scott. (1972). Recovery from aphasia: The aftermath of my stroke. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. A personal account of aphasia and the recovery process.

Wulf, Helen Harlan. (1973) Aphasia, my world alone. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press. Wulf gives a vivid account of her recovery from aphasia, including frustrations and victories. Speech-language treatment and clinicians figure prominently in her recovery.

Movies and Videos

Johnny Belinda

Long Journey Back

World according to Garp

A Fish called Wanda

Activity List

1. Read one of the books listed and make a list of ideas you might want to try in your classroom [50 pts].

2. Read some of the ideas about Ebonics and write a short essay giving your position and justification for it. You may want to address questions like: Is it a language or a dialect? Does it have a central place in our society or is it marginalized? Is it an urban, rural or wide ranging phenomenon? Should a teacher who is not African-American teach it? How does this issue compare to Creole in the South? What about French and the feelings about language in Canada? [25 points]

3. Make a developmental time line, showing normal acquisition of language.[50 points]

4. Learn about facilitated communications. Try to find an opportunity to watch someone use this with a child. After looking at the pros and cons, develop a paragraph stating your personal feelings about the technique and its usefulness. [25 points]

5. Identify three commonly held fallacies about autism and then provide three fact based beliefs about people with a communication disorder. [15 points]

6. Locate and review one of the diagnostic instruments used to evaluate youngsters who may have communication disorders. In general, do you expect students to score in a wide range of intellectual abilities, or will more students score at or below average intelligence? [25 points].

7. Discuss the difference between communication disorders and ESL. Are there different approaches to increasing language facility? Discuss in detail for 50 points.

8. Remember to feel free to develop your own personal response to the material. Allot yourself approximately 25 points per hour for your work.

You should now:

Go back to Characteristics

E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at

Course developed by J'Anne Ellsworth


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