Module: Learning Disability - Communication Disorder (Page 1 of 12)


  1. Definition
    1. Expressive Language Disorder
    2. Mixed Receptive Expressive Disorder
    3. Phonological Disorder
  2. Institutional Accommodations
  3. Assistive Technology Accommodations
  4. Teaching Strategies—
    What Can Faculty Do?
    1. Specific Strategies per Disability
    2. General Strategies
    3. Shaping the Environment
  5. Learning Strategies—
    What Can Students do?
  6. Footnotes and Resources
  7. Feedback


According to KidSource Online, “The term communication disorders encompasses a wide variety of problems in language, speech, and hearing. Speech and language impairments include articulation problems, voice disorders, fluency problems (such as stuttering), aphasia (difficulty in using words, usually as a result of a brain injury), and delays in speech and/or language. Speech and language delays may be due to many factors, including environmental factors or hearing loss.”[1]

This module will focus on three categories of communication disorders:

  1. Expressive Language Disorder
  2. Mixed Receptive Expressive Disorder
  3. Phonological Disorder

Expressive Language Disorder


  • Impairment in expressive language development


The following difficulties impact oral and written performance:

  • Limited amount of speech
  • Limited range of vocabulary
  • Difficulty acquiring new words, word finding or vocabulary errors
  • Shortened sentences
  • Simplified grammatical structures
  • Limited varieties of grammatical structures
  • Limited varieties of sentence types
  • Omissions of critical parts of sentences
  • Use of unusual word order
  • Slow rate of language development

Mixed Receptive-Expressive Disorder


  • Impairment in both receptive and expressive language development.


  • Difficulties associated with Expressive Disorder (see previous page) in addition to difficulties related to Receptive Language Disorder
  • Difficulty understanding words, sentences or specific types of words may result in difficulty following simple or complex directions

Phonological Disorder


  • Characterized by failure to use speech sounds that are appropriate for the individual’s age and dialect.


  • Difficulty learning and organizing the sounds needed for clear speech, reading and spelling may impact oral and written performance.

Institutional Accommodations

  • Alternative Format - Textbooks and print materials can be converted to alternative formats for students
  • Alternative testing arrangements- extra time; less distracting environment; provision of a reader/scribe; and use of a computer, including adaptive software and hardware.
  • Note taking support
  • Priority registration

Teaching Strategies—What Can Faculty do?

Specific Strategies per Disability

  • Allow the use of scratch paper during exams for recall of information and ability to work out problems
  • Allow the use of Spell Checkers during any written classroom assignments
  • Reinforce directions visually, written in sequential order for student
  • Break large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments
  • Highlight Key Points: Highlight key concepts in written materials; use visual, and interactive cues for added emphasis
  • Allow student to take test(s) in a different location with less distractions: The Disability Service Office will assist students in providing alternative arrangements

General Strategies

Provide Accessible Course Materials
Ensure that all curriculum materials (syllabus, notes, presentations, assignments, etc.) are available in an accessible format that can be used and manipulated by a computer (Word, HTML, RTF, PDF, etc.). To learn how to create accessible materials, see Training Modules and Tutorials on this website.
Plan Ahead
Select textbooks and materials needed for the semester as early as possible.  Students with disabilities will need time to take class materials to the Disability Service Office for conversion to an alternative format.
Provide Structure
Provide a syllabus and class assignments with clearly delineated expectations and due dates.
Provide Guided Notes on the Web
Prior to lectures, provide students with consistent, structured notes that are in an accessible format. Since students with disabilities sometimes have more difficulty than others in processing new information (especially while simultaneously trying to take notes), having notes ahead of time will increase students’ ability to follow along during class and more effectively process course content. If it is not acceptable for all students to have lecture notes ahead of time, make alternative arrangements for students with disabilities such as emailing lecture notes to the student(s) or setting up an office mailbox where the student(s) can receive notes ahead of time.
Provide Multiple Methods of Presentation
Present information and ideas in multiple ways in order to address different learning styles.
Engage students in multiple ways of learning
Incorporate active teaching/learning methods where possible. For example, problem-based learning activities, community projects, in-class activities and discussions, etc.
Encourage Multiple Methods of Expression
Offer more than one way for students to demonstrate what they have learned in class. For example, students can be given a choice between taking a test, writing a paper, giving an oral presentation, producing a video, etc. Additionally, keep in mind that some students may have difficulty working in a group. Alternative ways of completing a group assignment may need to be considered.
Repeat or paraphrase questions and responses so that the whole class can hear.
This is especially important in large classrooms and when a microphone is used during live and taped presentations.
Highlight Key Points
Provide an overview when introducing a new topic, and highlight key points in a variety of ways throughout class lessons and in written materials. Use visual, verbal and interactive cues for added emphasis. This helps students know what to expect and what is most important, thus improving their ability to achieve the learning objectives.
Summarize Key Points
Summarizing key points at the end of each class will increase the student’s ability to process and integrate new information.
Chunk Information
Break large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments (“chunking”).
Provide Study Aids
Provide study questions, study guides, and opportunities for questions and answers to help students review and clarify essential course content.
Allow the use of digital recorders
Provide students the opportunity to process and review class material at their own pace, both after class and later during the semester. Review of material in this manner is especially helpful in preparation for mid-term and final exams.
Engage with Students who Self Advocate
Team up with students with disabilities (who disclose their accommodation needs) to determine a plan that is effective for all involved.

Shaping the Environment

Seating and Positioning
Encourage the student to sit in the front of the class, away from doors, air conditioning units, windows, or any other possible sources of distraction.

Learning Strategies—What Can the Student do?

Advocate for self
Connect with the disability service office to learn about available services and supports. Communicate with instructors about personal learning style and any individual accommodations that are being requested. Students should also be encouraged to read the ACCESS Self-Advocacy Handbook for College Students with Disabilities, available on this website.
Plan Ahead
Communicate with professors about what books are required; take text materials to Disability Service Office for conversion to an alternative format prior to the start of the semester.
Use Peer Support
Seek the peer support of other students with disabilities. Check with the Disability Service Office to find out about peer support groups. Find groups of people in your classes to study with that are respectful of your learning needs.
Record Class Lectures
Ask professors for permission to record class lectures in order to make sure all pertinent information is gained.


1KidSource Online™
Children with Communication Disorders
Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
LDA is a nonprofit grassroots organization providing support to individuals with learning disabilities, their parents, and professional service providers. LDA provides cutting edge information on learning disabilities, practical solutions, and a comprehensive network of resources.
Learning Disabilities Association of Colorado
55 Madison Street
Suite 750 
Denver, Colorado  80206
(303) 539-9832
Learning Disabilities Discussion List
National Institute for Literacy's Discussion List is designed to bring together literacy stakeholders - researchers, policymakers, administrators, practitioners, and students - to discuss critical issues on the latest research, promising policies and practices, as well as, to provide a forum for sharing resources and experience. The discussion lists also offer the opportunity to ask questions of subject experts and to keep up-to-date on literacy issues across the lifespan. Additionally, the site has links that offer a wealth of LD information and resources.
LDOnline is a comprehensive website that provides parents, teachers and other professionals information about learning disabilities.
LD Pride Live Chat
LD Pride’s “Live Chat Support Group” offers people with LD/ADD or Deaf-LD an opportunity to give and receive online support.
LD Resources
LD Resources provides an archive of colleges and universities that offer programs for students with Learning Disabilities.
Learning Disabilities Resource Community (LDRC)
Provides knowledge-building and communication tools for individuals and groups involved in the education of those with learning disabilities and supports research and development in associated fields. The LDRC-List is a mailing list of on going discussions related to learning disabilities that are delivered via email to all those subscribed.
Schwab Foundation for Learning
Schwab Foundation for Learning seeks to raise awareness about learning differences and equips parents, teachers, and other professionals with the resources they need to improve the lives of students with learning differences. Its mission grew out of Charles Schwab's life long struggle with dyslexia and the frustration he and his wife, Helen, faced in trying to find help for their son who inherited the reading difficulty.
1650 South Amphlett Boulevard, Suite 300
San Mateo, CA 94402
800-230-0988 (toll-free)

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Learning Disability - Communication Disorder
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