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Language Impairments Factsheet (for Schools)

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
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What Teachers Should Know

Students with language impairments have trouble understanding what is being communicated to them or difficulty expressing themselves. These problems may be verbal, nonverbal, or written.

Language impairments may be:

  • expressive — trouble expressing ideas or needs
  • receptive — trouble understanding what others are communicating
  • mixed — a combination of expressive and receptive

Students with language impairments have problems with one or more of the basic parts of language needed to understand or use spoken or written language.

Students with language impairments may:

  • have trouble finding the right words, combining words to form sentences, and understanding the meaning of words and sentences
  • have problems understanding or following directions
  • use vocabulary, tenses (past, present, and future), or other grammatical rules improperly
  • have trouble reading, writing, or spelling
  • have trouble with social aspects of language, such as taking turns in a conversation
  • miss class time to attend speech/language therapy
  • benefit from an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 education plan

What Teachers Can Do

Language impairments in kids and teens can range from mild to severe. Students may face social issues in school and at home because of communication problems.

You can help a student with a language impairment by:

  • making sure the student understands and writes down assignments correctly to help avoid confusion about what is expected
  • being patient — and encouraging classmates to be patient — when the student is speaking in class
  • having the student sit close to you so you can help with questions and instructions
  • giving extra time or help to complete class work, homework, and tests
  • learning about the student's specific needs by talking with the student, parents or guardians, and the speech/language therapist
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2020