What is a speech impairment?
There are many types of speech impairment.
Stuttering or stammering is a communication difficulty which may involve repeating sounds, syllables or words, prolonging sounds, blocking or hesitating, and avoiding or substituting words. There may be other secondary behaviours associated with stuttering such as excessive muscle tension in the face, neck, back or stomach. Distortion of the face can occur with grimacing, frowning, etc.
Other speech impairments include apraxia of speech which is a motor speech disorder. It is caused by damage to the parts of the brain related to speaking and means the person has difficulty forming words and may say a different word or sound to the one they wanted to. Other, sometimes linked disorders include dysarthria (muscle weakness affecting speech production) and aphasia (language difficulties related to neurological damage).
Speech impairment can also be linked to other disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Huntingdon's Disease and traumatic brain injury.
Speech impairments are not an indication of intelligence or confusion. The person knows what they want to say but has difficulty verbalising.
How do speech impairments affect people in employment?
Speech impairments can affect people's confidence at work, particularly at meetings or events where they need to speak in front of a group of people. They may have particular problems in situations which are stressful to them, for example interviews and using the telephone. However, as a result of their impairment, people often better plan what they want to say and with accommodations can be effective, and often succinct, communicators.
NZ Relay provides access to telephone services for Deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired people.