Communication Overview


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According to the official statement from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 

"A communication disorder is an impairment in the ability to receive, send, process, and comprehend concepts or verbal, nonverbal and graphic symbol systems. A communication disorder may be evident in the processes of hearing, language, and/or speech. A communication disorder may range in severity from mild to profound. It may be developmental or acquired. Individuals may demonstrate one or any combination of communication disorders. A communication disorder may result in a primary disability or it may be secondary to other disabilities.

A.    A speech disorder is an impairment of the articulation of speech sounds, fluency and/or voice.

1.    An articulation disorder is the atypical production of speech sounds characterized by substitutions, omissions, additions or distortions that may interfere with intelligibility.

2.    A fluency disorder is an interruption in the flow of speaking characterized by atypical rate, rhythm, and repetitions in sounds, syllables, words, and phrases. This may be accompanied by excessive tension, struggle behavior, and secondary mannerisms.

3.    A voice disorder is characterized by the abnormal production and/or absences of vocal quality, pitch, loudness, resonance, and/or duration, which is inappropriate for an individual's age and/or sex.

B.    A language disorder is impaired comprehension and/or use of spoken, written and/or other symbol systems. The disorder may involve (1) the form of language (phonology, morphology, syntax), (2) the content of language (semantics), and/or (3) the function of language in communication (pragmatics) in any combination.

1.    Form of Language

a.    Phonologyis the sound system of a language and the rules that govern the sound combinations.

b.    Morphologyis the system that governs the structure of words and the construction of word forms.

c.    Syntaxis the system governing the order and combination of words to form sentences, and the relationships among the elements within a sentence.

2.    Content of Language

a.    Semanticsis the system that governs the meanings of words and sentences.

3.    Function of Language

a.    Pragmaticsis the system that combines the above language components in functional and socially appropriate communication."1

"There are many individuals who are unable to use speech as their primary method of communication. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (1991) estimated that there were more than 2 million individuals in the United States who were unable to communicate using speech or had severe communication impairments... These individuals need to use other methods of communication inorder to interact with their environment. The term augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is used to define these other communication methods. AAC ranges from use of gestures, sign languages, and facial expressions, to the use of alphabet or picture symbol boards, and even sophisticated computer systems with synthesized speech." 2

This section includes links to resources for communication challenges including Vocabulary and Language, Strategic Competence, Pragmatics, Boardmaker links, AAC blogs, Pinterest sites and means of Access

1American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1993). Definitions of communication disorders and variations [Relevant Paper]. Available from © Copyright 1993 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.

2 Glennen, S., & Decoste, D. (1997). Handbook of Augmentative and Alternative CommunicationSan Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group, Inc.