ERIC Identifier: ED459549
Publication Date: 2001-11-00
Author: Brice, Alejandro
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Arlington VA.
Children with Communication Disorders: Update 2001. ERIC
The ability to communicate with others is critical to a young child's
development and it is a prerequisite to academic learning, yet some children
have disorders that interfere with various aspects of their abilities to
communicate. This digest discusses various types of communication disorders,
their incidence, the learning difficulties associated with them, the special
case of English language learners, and the educational significance of
WHAT IS A COMMUNICATION DISORDER?
communication disorders have deficits in their ability to exchange information
with others. A communication disorder may occur in the realm of language, speech
and/or hearing. Language difficulties include spoken language, reading and/or
writing difficulties. Speech encompasses such areas as articulation and
phonology (the ability to speak clearly and be intelligible), fluency
(stuttering), and voice. Hearing difficulties may also encompass speech problems
(e.g., articulation or voice) and/or language problems. Hearing impairments
include deafness and hearing loss, which can result from a conductive loss, a
sensorineural loss, a mixed loss, or a central hearing loss.
Communication disorders may result from many different conditions. For
example, language-based learning disabilities are the result of a difference in
brain structure present at birth. This particular difficulty may be genetically
based. Other communication disorders stem from oral-motor difficulties (e.g., an
apraxia or dysarthia of speech), aphasias (difficulties resulting from a stroke
which may involve motor, speech and/or language problems), traumatic brain
injuries, and stuttering, which is now believed to be a neurological deficit.
The most common conditions that affect children's communication include
language-based learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, attention
deficit hyperactive disorder, cerebral palsy, mental disabilities, cleft lip or
palate, and autism spectrum disorders.
THE INCIDENCE OF COMMUNICATION DISORDERS
How many children
have a communication disorder? Estimates vary according to the specific
disability. According to the Twenty-Second Annual Report to Congress on the
Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (US
Department of Education, 2001), more than 20 percent of students with
disabilities or 1,074,548 children, aged 6 to 21, were served under IDEA in the
1996-97 school year. IDEA also served a smaller number of students with hearing
impairments (70,883). Attention deficit disorder can affect as many as two
million children, or three to five percent of American children (American
Speech, Language and Hearing Association, 2001; Children and Adults with
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, 2001).
CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN WITH COMMUNICATION DISORDERS
child with a communication problem may present many different symptoms. These
may include difficulty following directions, attending to a conversation,
pronouncing words, perceiving what was said, expressing oneself, or being
understood because of a stutter or a hoarse voice. Problems with language may
involve difficulty expressing ideas coherently, learning new vocabulary,
understanding questions, following directions, recalling information,
understanding and remembering something that has just been said, reading at a
satisfactory pace, comprehending spoken or read material, learning the alphabet,
identifying sounds that correspond to letters, perceiving the correct order of
letters in words, and possibly, spelling. Difficulties with speech may include
being unintelligible due to a motor problem or due to poor learning. Sounding
hoarse, breathy or harsh may be due to a voice problem. Stuttering also affects
speech intelligibility because the child's flow of speech is interrupted.
Many communication problems can be improved by therapy. Some problems may
never be "cured," but children can learn new strategies to overcome their
difficulties (e.g., attention deficit or stuttering). Some children may be able
to overcome their deficits as they grow older (e.g., mild language delays),
while others may compensate by communicating through electronic means (e.g., an
augmentative communication device or hearing aid).
STUDENTS LEARNING ENGLISH
Enrollment of students in the
United States from varying cultural and linguistic backgrounds has significantly
increased over the last few years. These students exhibit various levels of
functioning within the context of the school culture; they are acculturating to
the US school system and they are also learning English.
It is often difficult for teachers to tell if these students have a
disability or problems resulting from acculturation and language learning. Code
switching or code mixing, i.e., mixing two languages in the same sentence or
paragraph, is a natural second language phenomenon-it is not indicative of a
language disorder. Most bilingual speakers code switch or code mix. An example
of code switching by a teacher follows.
The teacher utilizes English, Spanish, and French to illustrate her point:
* What language is mille lacs (one thousand lakes)? Do you know what that
means? What does mille (thousand) mean? 'Mille' (French word for one thousand)
means mil (Spanish word for one thousand). Lacs (French word for lakes) means
lagos (Spanish word for lakes).
Children who speak English as a second language or speak another dialect do
not have a disorder simply because of their different dialect or language.
However, to diagnose an English language learner with a communication disorder
requires that symptoms of the disorder be present in both languages or dialects.
Speech-language pathologists in schools thus face the challenge of how best
to provide services for students who are learning the English language. The
issue is compounded when monolingual pathologists must provide services to
students from bilingual homes.
EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF COMMUNICATIONS DISORDERS
strong relationship exists between communication and academic achievement.
Language and communication proficiency, along with academic success, depend on
whether students can match their communications to the learning-teaching style
of the classroom.
Students with communication disorders are capable of high academic success if
they learn the classroom's social, language, and learning patterns. Teachers and
speech-language pathologists should focus their attention on classroom
interactions and the language and communications used within the school in order
to help students learn to communicate in these environments. Explicit language
and communication planning as well as non-deliberate language use (e.g.,
unconscious choice of language) are important features of the school and class
environments that provide opportunities for teaching and learning.
American Speech, Language and Hearing
Association. (2001). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved from
Benner, S. M. (1998). Special education issues within the context of the
American society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Children and Adults with
Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). (2001). CHADDFacts. Retrieved
Hall, B. J., Oyer, H. J., & Haas, W. H. (2001). Speech, language and
hearing disorders. A guide for the teacher (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and
Hegde, M. N. (1995). Introduction to communication disorders (2nd ed.).
Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
Leeper, L. H., & Gotthoffer, D. (2000). Quick guide to the Internet for
speech-language pathology and audiology. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Lue, M. S. (2001). A survey of communication disorders for the classroom
teacher. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Nicolosi, L., Harryman, E., & Kresheck, J. (1996). Terminology of
communication disorders (4th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins.
Owens, R. E., Metz, D. E., & Haas, A. (2000). Introduction to
communication disorders. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Roseberry-McKibbin, C., & Hegde, M. N. (2000). An advanced review of
speech-language pathology. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. (2001).
Twenty-second annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 10801 Rockville Pike,
Rockville, MD 20852, 301-897-5700 http://www.professional.asha.org/
The National Association of the Deaf, 814 Thayer Avenue Silver Spring, MD
20910-4500, 301-587-1788 (Voice), 301-587-1789 (TTY). http://www.nad.org/
National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders, 3
National Institutes of Health, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2320, Bethesda, MD
Net Connections for Communication Disorders and Sciences. An Internet Guide
(http://www.mankato.msus.edu/dept/comdis/ kuster2/welcome.html) by Judith
Maginnis Kuster. This site includes valuable resources for professionals and
students in communication disorders and sciences as well as for persons with
Providing Speech-Language Pathologists Materials and Research: Issues of
Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CLD) (http://www.asha.ucf.edu) is a site from
the University of Central Florida awarded an ASHA Office of Multicultural
The Network on Multicultural Communication Sciences and Disorders
(http://www.utexas.edu/coc/csd/multicultural/network/ home.htm) is a site from
the University of Texas at Austin that provides "information and links related
to universities and training programs, research and funding, and resources".