Speech and Communication Disorders Resource Guide for Staff

Patients with Speech and Communication Disorders

Patients with speech and or communication disorders may have difficulty with articulating words, voice strength, or participating in verbal and nonverbal communication. The symptoms can range from a slight stutter to the inability to use speech or language to communicate.

Key Recommendations for Patients with Speech and Communication Disorders

Black Letter F

Familiarize with how the patient communicates before medical interview
Find out whether the patient already has a reliable and preferred communication method.

black letter R

Reduce Rate: Slow down!
Pause between phrases, one idea at a time, allow more time for patient to respond

Black letter A

 Assist with communication
Ask questions in a different way to help patient understand (e.g., multiple choice; yes/no)

Black Letter M

Mix communication method
Keep a small whiteboard/pad of paper handy to write key words or draw. Use pictures, alphabet boards, and gestures.

Black letter E

 Engage the patient first

Communicate directly with the patient. Do not ignore patient and talk only to family/caregiver.


Note. Adapted from “Medical education: Preparing professionals to enhance communication access in healthcare settings,” by K. Yorkston, C. Baylor, M. Burns, M. Morris, & T. McNalley, in S. Blackstone, D. Beukelman, & K. Yorkston (Eds.), Patient-Provider Communication: Roles for Speech-Language Pathologists and Other Health Care Professionals (p. 55), 2015, San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc. Copyright 2015 by Plural Publishing, Inc.

Additional Accommodations and Resources for Patients with Speech/Communication Disorders

Closed Captioning During Visits Using Zoom

Live captioning is an auto transcribe feature available on Zoom video and can be used during virtual visits with patients. The text can be displayed once this feature can be enabled at the bottom of the screen. To enable CC/Live Captioning during virtual visits with patients, follow the steps below: 

Step 1: See bottom bar for Live Transcript button. Select this. 

Screenshot of the bottom bar on Zoom with Live Transcript button selected

Step 2: Select enable under Live Transcription. This will activate the live transcription feature.

 Screenshot of How to Enable Transcription in Zoom

Whiteboards for Communication

We are also currently building the Disability Cart that includes whiteboards. This page will be updated with more information on how request one. It is recommended that your clinic or floor acquire a few whiteboards to use for immediate use.

Quiet Space for Communication

Minimize any environmental noise that might effect communication (e.g., fans, alarms, hallway noises).

Exceptions to the COVID-19 Visitor Policy

Please see Michigan Medicine’s Visitor Guidelines During COVID-19, including the Guidelines for Supporting Adult Patients with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PDF). Questions regarding policy modifications should be referred to Patient Relations and Clinical Risk at 734-936-4330.

Questions or Concerns

For any questions or concerns around the patient rights, please reach out to the Patient Civil Rights Coordinator at MichMed_patients_rights@med.umich.edu. For additional guidance and support for identifying resources on topics such as accommodations, physical accessibility, service animals and disability inclusion and awareness, you can also reach out to the ADA team at adacoordinator@umich.edu.