Faculty Tips for the Classroom

Communication Impairments

You might see the student display

  • Expression difficulties, such as the inability to produce certain sounds
  • Stammering, cluttering (rapid, slurred speech), and other fluency problems
  • Reluctance to participate verbally in class
  • Voice disorders, including problems of pitch, voice quality, and volume
  • Have problems understanding what is said, expressing themselves, or both
  • Not appearing to listen/understand even when speaking 1:1, flat affect



Top 10 strategies to consider

  1. Be patient and give the student time to speak without supplying words or finishing sentences.
  2. Check for understanding; if you have misunderstood or missed something, ask again.
  3. Give students the opportunity, but do not compel them to speak in class.
  4. Avoid pressuring students with this disability to give class presentations orally, suggest other forms of participation to the student during your office hours.
  5. Maintain comfortable eye contact and posture with the student.
  6. Address students naturally and in your regular speaking voice. Do not assume that they cannot hear or comprehend.
  7. Consider course modifications, such as one-to-one presentations and the use of a computer with a voice synthesizer.
  8. Exams or orally required work that is graded may need to be substituted for something that will demonstrate knowledge but does not require a presentation (This has to be determined on a case-by-case basis.)
  9. When speaking with a student who is difficult to understand, ask if you can have your conversation on screen. Sit where both of you can see the screen and take turns typing. This also provides a record of the conversation

Check out these other resources: These are only some of the conditions that are characterized by communication impairments.

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