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Speech or Language Impairment

Definition in State Rule: Speech or Language Impairment

Speech or language impairment means an impairment of speech or sound production, voice, fluency, or language that adversely affects educational performance or social, emotional or vocational development. PI 11.36 (5)(a), Wis. Admin. Code

For more information and guidance on implementing the updated rule, see the "Speech or Language Impairment Criteria" section of this web page. 


Incidence and Disproportionality


For the 2022-2023 school year, 26,296 students (3.2%) of total public school enrollment (822,804 students) were identified as having a speech or language impairment. The 26,296 students with a speech or language impairment made up 21.5% of all students with IEPs (122,187).

In Wisconsin, IEP teams are not required to identify secondary or tertiary impairment areas and are only required to submit a “reporting” disability and may also report an “other” disability category. Thus the number of students identified as having an “other” disability category of speech or language impairment is not reflected in this data.  In addition, data is not collected on the number of students that receive speech or language as a related service in Wisconsin. To view additional data including district level information, go to the WI DPI public WISEdash portal.


In Wisconsin, like many other states, we see district data demonstrating race-based patterns of identification for speech or language impairment. Specifically, districts have identified American Indian students more than their peers with having a speech or language impairment. As an equity issue, we strongly encourage all districts to disaggregate their special education data to ensure evaluation practices and procedures are culturally responsive and address bias when conducting and analyzing assessments used to make eligibility decisions. Go to the DPI Culturally Responsive Problem Solving web page for more information.

Speech or Language Impairment Criteria

Speech or Language Impairment Criteria

§300.304 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines two purpose of special education evaluations (i) Whether the child is a child with a disability; and (ii) The content of the child’s IEP, including information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum (or for a preschool child, to participate in appropriate activities). The disability category criteria IEP forms only assist IEP teams with (i) and are not sufficient in completing an evaluation and developing a student’s IEP. To ensure compliance with implementing a full, individual, and comprehensive evaluation, go to the Wisconsin DPI Comprehensive Special Education Evaluation web page.

Worksheets and Guidelines

Additional information for decision making for a speech or language impairment on the Assessment Tools for Speech or Language Impairment page..

Other Special Education Resources

We encourage you to sign up for our email list. Directions on how to sign up can be found on the DPI email lists web page. Scroll down to Special Education and click on “speech-language."