Classroom Modifications for Speech & Language Disorders

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Students who have speech and language disorders can still succeed in the classroom. This lesson offers some modifications that will help these students learn.

Speech and Language Disorders

Ms. Rogers teaches fourth grade in an inclusive public elementary school. For the past several years, she has had multiple students in her class with diagnosed speech and language disorders. Speech and language disorders are disabilities that impact students' ability to understand and produce speech and language.

Ms. Rogers has come to understand that there is a wide variety of speech and language disorders. Some students may struggle with hearing or with auditory processing, which helps them make sense of what they have heard. Others struggle with pronunciation, while still others may have a hard time with the organization or pragmatics, meaning the social and communicative aspect of language.

No two students with speech and language disorders are the same, but Ms. Rogers has learned that they face many similar struggles in the classroom. They often struggle in social situations, with literacy, and in completing language-embedded tasks, which are activities and assignments that require a great deal of language.

While students with speech and language disorders often work with a speech and language pathologist trained to help them with their struggles, Ms. Rogers also sees it as her responsibility to create modifications, or changes in her classroom practice, that allow these students to succeed.

Receptive Language Modifications

Receptive language refers to any language that should be understood, whether by listening or reading. Ms. Rogers uses the following modifications to help her students who struggle with receptive language.

  • She seats them close to the front of the room whenever possible so that they can see her lips and nonverbal signals.
  • She sometimes lets them work in the hallway or in a quiet area of the room where they can filter out extraneous noise and focus only on what is most important.
  • She previews academic material with them. To preview is to let students know in advance what they will be doing, give them a chance to process it and ask questions, and prepare them for participation in a larger group setting.
  • Sometimes, she provides them with reading material that covers similar content to everyone else's but on a slightly easier reading level.
  • She offers them graphic organizers, or visual templates for making sense of the language they are taking in.
  • She teaches them to rephrase and restate the things that other people are saying so that they can assess and monitor their own comprehension.
  • She pairs them with buddy students who can help them review information and ask questions if they are feeling confused about what is going on in class.

Expressive Language Modifications

Expressive language refers to language that students must produce themselves, either by speaking or writing. Ms. Rogers uses these modifications to help her students who struggle with expressive language.

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