Speech-Language Impairment

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Young woman smiling in workplaceImpairments in speech and language may result from a number of different limitations and disorders. An individual may be limited due to problems with articulation, voice strength, language expression, or maybe non-vocal. Following is a list of speech and language disorders including information from the American Speech-Language, Hearing Association (ASHA).

  • Aphasia is impaired expression or comprehension of written or spoken language. Aphasia is often caused by stroke, brain injury or Alzheimer's dementia.
  • Dysarthria results in difficulty pronouncing words like "cat" or sounds like "sh" and "ba." Dysarthria may be caused by a degenerative neurological disorder or alcohol intoxication.
  • Dysphonias can be present in one of two forms, adductor or abductor. The adductor type produces a strained or strangled voice quality. Abductor sounds like chronic hoarseness or breathy and effortful speech. 
  • Esophageal speech is a technique where a person takes air in through the mouth, traps it in the throat, and then releases it. As the air is released, it makes the upper parts of the throat/esophagus vibrate and produces sound. This sound is still shaped into words with the lips, tongue, teeth, and other mouthparts.
  • Stuttering results in repetition, blocks or inability to say certain words, and/or the prolonging of words. An individual who stutters may also have distorted movements and facial expressions when trying to speak.
  • Nodules are most frequently caused by vocal abuse or misuse. Polyps may be caused by prolonged vocal abuse, but may also occur after a single, traumatic event to the vocal folds. Speech may be hoarse, breathy, and painful to produce. 

Additionally, speech and language limitations might occur due to stroke, cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s Disease, oral and laryngeal cancer, hearing impairment, traumatic brain injury, dementia, chronic laryngitis, and vocal cord paralysis.

Accommodating Employees with Speech-Language Impairment

The degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with a speech-language impairment will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. Due to the wide variance in speech-language impairment, AskJan.org gives many scenarios and recommendations.

What are employers' responsibilities?

Employers need to make reasonable accommodations for their speech-impaired employees. To learn more about what these accommodations might be, this AskJan.org page offers several resources.

Note: Another helpful resource from AskJan.org is their Workplace Accommodation Toolkit

Speech-Language Assistive Technology Devices

ABLE Tech Device Exchange and Reuse Programs

Did you know that items can be borrowed, purchased, or given to others through the ABLE Tech Device Exchange or Reuse Programs? The items vary based on availability. Create an ABLE Tech FREE ACCOUNT

Phone: 405.523.4810 or 833.431.9706 
Email: atreuse@okstate.edu

Oklahoma WorksOklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Oklahoma ABLE Tech have collaborated to provide this information and advice to those seeking accommodation in the workplace.