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What is Speech or Language Impairment?


Speech or Language Impairment is "a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance" (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2018, p. 591).

  • Difficulty engaging in conversational speech

  • Impairment in spoken reciprocal social interactions

  • At risk for exclusion due to communication difficulties

  • May have weak oral motor skills
  • May have difficulty swallowing due to physical impairment
  • Speech may be effected by a mouth or tongue disorder
  • Creative

  • Adaptable

  • Resilient

  • Impairments in the following speech and language areas:

    • Articulation

    • Fluency

    • Vocal tone or volume

    • The 5 domains of language:

      • Phonology​

      • Morphology

      • Syntax

      • Semantics

      • Pragmatics

  • Able to visualize in 3D

  • Thinks outside of the box

  • Detail oriented 

  • Honest

  • Strong sense of justice

  • Able to hyper focus

  • Often has a high IQ depending on level of functioning

  • May be reluctant to speak due to embarrassment over disability

    • Stuttering​

    • Physical  mouth or tongue disorder

  • May exhibit signs of anxiety or withdrawal in class

  • Students with SLI can have co-morbid cognitive-communication disorders if their SLI is caused by brain trauma or a congenital disorder

Levels of Severity
  • People with Speech or Language Impairment (SLI) can have mild, moderate or severe impairment.

  • Students with mild to moderate SLI are well supported by language acquisition strategies, low to mid-level assistive technology, and speech services.

  • People with severe SLI may be non-verbal, and usually require additional educational, vocational and self-care considerations.



  • It is estimated that 5% of school-aged children have a Speech or Language Impairment.

  • 44% of students receiving disability services in school have an SLI.

  • Almost 90% of students with SLI spend at least 80% of their days in a mainstreamed classroom.

  • Students with SLI often need extra speech services.

  • Inclusionary and differentiated instructional strategies help students with SLI feel comfortable in the educational environment.


Student Questions
  • Grades K-4:

    • Will the other kids laugh if I stutter?

    • Will I have to say words out loud?

    • What should I do if I feel bullied?

  • Grades 5-8:

    • Can you speak slower, or give me written notes?

    • Does that book come in an audio version?

    • Do I have to do group work?

  • Grades 9-12:

    • Will I get extra time on tests?

    • Do you have the class lectures on video?

    • Do I have to do a public speaking assignment?

Parent Questions
  • Who do I talk to about getting an Individualized Education Plan for my child?
  • Are there transitional supports for after high school?
  • How do I get my child screened for SLI?
  • What therapies are available in school for my child?
  • Will my child's speech or language improve with time?
  • Who do I go to if I have concerns about my child's interactions with their peers?
Teacher Questions
  • Where do I get additional training for working with students with SLI?
  • What assistive technology do I have available to help me differentiate instruction for students with SLI?
  • What should I do if I have a student with SLI who is also an ELL student?
  • What administrative and additional support do I have to help me support my students with SLI?
  • How can I model tolerance and inclusion in my classroom?
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