Speech/Language Impaired Definition:

Speech or language impairment refers to a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language or voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. A speech or language impairment may be congenital or acquired. It refers to impairments in the areas of articulation, fluency, voice or language. Individuals may demonstrate one or any combination of speech or language impairments. A speech or language impairment may be a primary disability or it may be secondary to other disabilities. [34 C.F.R. § 300.8(c)(11)]

(1) Speech Sound Production Impairment (e.g. articulation impairment)- atypical production of speech sounds characterized by substitutions, omissions, additions or distortions that interferes with intelligibility in conversational speech and obstructs learning ,successful verbal communication in the educational setting. The term may include the atypical production of speech sounds resulting from phonology, motor or other issues. The term speech sound impairment does not include:

A) Inconsistent or situational errors;

B) Communication problems primarily from regional, dialectic, and/or cultural differences;

C) Speech sound errors at or above age level according to established research-based developmental norms, speech that is intelligible and without documented evidence of adverse affect on educational performance;

D) Physical structures (e.g., missing teeth, unrepaired cleft lip and/or palate) are the primary cause of the speech sound impairment; or

E) Children who exhibit tongue thrust behavior without an associated speech sound impairment.

(2) Language Impairment - impaired comprehension and/or use of spoken language which may also impair written and/or other symbol systems and is negatively impacting the child’s ability to participate in the classroom environment. The impairment may involve, in any combination, the form of language (phonology, morphology, and syntax), the content of language (semantics) and/or the use of language in communication (pragmatics) that is adversely affecting the child’s educational performance. The term language impairment does not include:

A) Children who are in the normal stages of second language acquisition/learning and whose communication problems result from English being a secondary language unless it is also determined that they have a speech language impairment in their native/primary language.

B) Children who have regional, dialectic, and/or cultural differences

C) Children who have auditory processing disorders not accompanied by language impairment.

D) Children who have anxiety disorders (e.g. selective mutism) unless it is also determined that they have a speech language impairment. There must be a documented speech-language impairment that adversely affects the educational performance for these children to qualify for special education services.

(3) Fluency Impairment - interruption in the flow of speech characterized by an atypical rate, or rhythm, and/or repetitions in sounds, syllables, words and phrases that significantly reduces the speaker’s ability to participate within the learning environment. Excessive tension, struggling behaviors and secondary characteristics may accompany fluency impairments. Secondary characteristics are defined as ritualistic behaviors or movements that accompany dysfluencies. Ritualistic behaviors may include avoidance of specific sounds in words. Fluency impairment includes disorders such as stuttering and cluttering. It does not include dysfluencies evident in only one setting or reported by one observer.

(4) Voice/Resonance Impairment – interruption in one or more processes of pitch, quality, intensity, or resonance resonation that significantly reduces the speaker’s ability to communicate effectively.. Voice/Resonance impairment includes aphonia or the abnormal production of vocal quality, pitch, loudness, resonance, and/or duration, which is inappropriate for an individual’s age and/or gender. The term voice/resonance impairment does not refer to:

A) Anxiety disorders (e.g. selective mutism)

B) Differences that are the direct result of regional, dialectic, and/or cultural differences

C) Differences related to medical issues not directly related to the vocal mechanism (e.g. laryngitis, allergies, asthma, laryngopharyngeal reflux (eg. acid reflux of the throat, colds, abnormal tonsils or adenoids, short-term vocal abuse or misuse, neurological pathology)

D) Vocal impairments that are found to be the direct result of or symptom of a medical condition unless the impairment impacts the child’s performance in the educational environment and is amenable to improvement with therapeutic intervention.


For information regarding Eligibility for Speech/Language Impaired services please refer to the Georgia Department of Education Rules and Regulations:  http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/_documents/doe/legalservices/160-4-7-.05.pdf