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Speech Language Impairment

What is It?

smiling boy

This is a communication disorder that includes stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

A child meets the federal definition of a "child with a disability" is two-pronged:

  1. Does the child meet the criteria associated with one of the disability categories established in the law (e.g., speech-language impairment)?
  2. Does the child need special education and related services as a result of this disability?

The definition of speech-language impairment highlights the importance of considering the child's performance in school when making the decision about eligibility: "...speech-language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance" (34 C.F.R. Section 300.8(c)(11)).


In the United States, 24.1% of students received services for speech and language disorders in 2003.

How to Identify and Respond

Formal and informal assessments should be used in order to identify a student with a speech language impairment. Some of these assessments include observations and oral tests. Students may need early intervention or Special Education and related services.

How to Prevent

Speech screenings and hearing checks can be done in order to prevent speech language impairment. Testing by a speech language pathologist can also help.

References and Websites