Music & Students with Special Needs (Special Learners in Music) Special Learners in Music
Bartlett - Established 1884 in New York City

Communication Disorders

Students with speech or language impairments may have difficulty understanding directions or routine. They may have limited communication with other children and may interfere with the work of those around them. These students may demonstrate a lack of attention and may be unable to use appropriate or expected speech. Sometimes, these students have difficulty making themselves understood. They may also lack language skills necessary to initiate or enter into play and learning situations.

Other characteristics of speech or language differences

  • Student may be hesitant to participate in class, ask a question, or initiate a conversation.
  • Student may prefer to use gestures rather than words.
  • Student may have trouble finding the correct word for an object or event (called word retrieval or word finding).
  • Student may have a limited vocabulary, and uses the same group of words for different situations.
  • Student may use incorrect verb tense, or omit verbs entirely.
  • Student may have difficulty with subject-verb agreement.
  • Student may have problems putting words into correct sequence when speaking.
  • Student may speak in short, simple sentences without expanding on ideas.
  • Student may have trouble relating an experience or story in the proper sequence.
  • Student may use vague words such as “stuff” or “thing”, and makes indirect, ambiguous statement.
  • Student may switch topics without using a transition phrase or sentence.
  • Student may fail to adapt language to the needs of the listener.

Teaching Strategies for students with speech and language differences

  • Reassure the student privately about her speech.
  • Do not draw attention to the student’s articulation errors.
  • Emphasize correct language expression without correcting the student.
  • Model effective language expression.
  • Find opportunities to talk with the student informally.
  • Teach the student the basics of classroom communication.
  • Promote class participation.
  • Provide the student with extended wait time.
  • Orchestrate successful classroom presentations.
  • Develop nonverbal signals to alert the student about speech.
  • Heighten students’ awareness of all sensory input: touch, smell, hearing, and vision.
  • Make sure that all students are able to see you at all times.
  • Check to see that students are on the correct page in books.
  • Get the student’s attention before talking. Use phrases such as “Jason, please look at me.”
  • Use tactile and visual clues throughout the environment. Examples are flashing lights, pictures to give directions, bold labels, and various textures.
  • Assign a student helper to notify the student in emergency situations when bells may sound, such as fire drills, disaster drills, etc.
  • Have the student work in small group settings.
  • Provide clear language models for all students.
  • Use comments such as “show me” to help the student communicate. Give the students words to use in specific situations.
  • Use simple vocabulary with short, easy to understand sentences.
  • Listen attentively to students and maintain eye contact.
  • Provide many opportunities for all students to express themselves and to listen with respect others.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Speech and Language Disorders

Apraxia-Kids Internet Resources

National Stuttering Association website

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders - distorted tunes test?


Trace Center?

Whole Schooling Project Videos

Copyright 2005 Project Seven Development