Students with Communication Disabilities


Communication disabilities may require a person to use support in order to communicate with others. This may include but is not limited to: voice output devices, picture communication symbols, sign language, cochlear implants, hearing aids, Frequency Modulation (FM) systems and interpreters. 


Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC) users, emergent communicators, signing, deaf and hard of hearing 

Instructional Accommodation Examples 

  • When giving instruction, provide an appropriate amount of time to wait for responses from the communicator to contribute (e.g., student with an augmented device will need processing time to both hear the instruction and communicate their response). 
  • For common verbal instructions given to the whole group, pair it with an action (e.g., to get students’ attention consider blowing a whistle, and pairing it with a visual cue such as a stop sign). 
  • Ensure that communication devices are accessible to the student at all times in all teaching environments. 
  • Speakers should position themselves in clear view for all students to see and hear the instruction, while using the support of visuals or a sign language interpreter if required (e.g., position students in a semi-circle so everyone can hear). 
  • Ensure that the environment is quiet and free from auditory distractions when providing instructions. 

Environmental Accommodation Examples

  • Create a positive physical space in the teaching and learning environment for all students to gather when requiring extra support (e.g., a corner of the gymnasium where students can go when they do not have a buddy).   
  • Reduce noise from echo in the gymnasium by using extra mats or carpets on parts of gym not being used. 
  • Provide visuals in the learning space to enhance understanding of verbal instructions (e.g., picture communication symbols, sign language, schedule board, anchor charts, written word). 
  • Ensure there is a designated space for students to have access to their communication devices (e.g., communication book on desk for test/assignments). 

Assessment Accommodation Examples

  • Allow for more time to complete assessment tasks.  
  • Provide multiple opportunities for the student to demonstrate the skill in different ways (e.g., using sign language, picture communication symbols, gestures). 

Learn more about supporting students with communication disabilities: