Speech or Language Impairment

Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

In Montana: Students ages 6-21 with a speech or language impairment made up 2.22% of the total student population in 2011.

Nationally: Speech and language impairments are considered a high-incidence disability. Approximately 20% of children receiving special education services are receiving services for speech and language disorders. This estimate does not include children who receive services for speech and language disorders that are secondary to other conditions such as deafness. More than one-half (55.2%) of all 3, 4, and 5 year old children with a disability receive speech and language services.

IDEA/Special Education Implications

A student demonstrates a communication need when and if the student uses a language or mode of communication (ie sign language, augmentative communication device, PEC system) that is different from those of school staff and peers. The purpose of this question on the IEP is to document the IEP team considered how information will be given to, and received from a student with an alternate language or mode of communication.

When is “Speech/Language” a special education service and when is it a related service? 
The term “special education” means specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. The term “related service” means developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. If “Speech/Language” is required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, it would be identified as a related education service. If “Speech/Language” is the sole special education service, it is considered the special education service. Speech and language pathology services are special education services when they are the only services identified on the IEP.  

What is the difference between the special education services of “Communication” and “Speech-language pathology”?
“Communication” includes the child's language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the child's language and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child's language and communication mode. 

“Speech-language pathology” services include identification of children with speech or language impairments; diagnosis and appraisal of specific speech or language impairments; referral for medical or other professional attention necessary for the rehabilitation of speech or language impairments; provision of speech and language services for the habilitation or prevention of communicative impairments; and counseling and guidance of parents, children, and teachers regarding speech and language impairments 

For more in depth information on speech or language impairment or other developmental disabilities visit the Montana Office of Public Instruction's special education guidance website.