Communication Disability

Communication Disability

Causes of communication disability

It is natural to wonder what might cause a communication disability or difficulty.

Many conditions, illnesses, accidents, and changes due to ageing can effect communication. Some conditions happen from birth, for example, cerebral palsy. Other times, it happens later in life, such as aphasia after a stroke.

But sometimes, there is no obvious cause.

Communication disabilities or difficulties can be mild to severe. They can be permanent or temporary. In fact, some difficulties can fluctuate for some people, depending on the situation and the person.

Unfortunately, the challenges and the impacts of communication disability may not be obvious to other people. It can be a hidden disability.

Some causes we know about

Communication difficulties or disabilities can be caused by a number of conditions and illnesses. Here are just a few. Read about these and more in our Fact sheets.



Parker and his mum Louise

Talking about his recent diagnosis

‘I was diagnosed with DLD [Developmental Language Disorder] last year, at the end. So, it didn’t really impact me that much – it just connected the dots more.’

‘I knew, from a very early age, that there was something different about Parker…So he would get very frustrated very easily because he couldn’t communicate exactly.’

More people than you might realise

In 2015, 1.2 million Australians reported some level of communication difficulty or disability.

This includes a wide range of people. It includes young to aged people. It includes people who speak to communicate and others who use some other method. It includes people who use AAC to communicate independently every day, to those who do not have a useful communication method yet.

According to Speech Pathology Australia:

  • 20% of four-year-old children have difficulty understanding or using language
  • 14% of 15-year-olds have only limited skills using written words (literacy)
  • Three in every 1,000 newborns have hearing loss, which can affect their speech, language and literacy; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have three times more hearing problems than other children
  • At least 30% of people suffer loss of language (aphasia) after a stroke
  • 13,000 Australians use electronic communication aids to get their message across
  • Around 5% of the population experiences stuttering at some stage in their life.
Meet some people with lived experience of communication difficulties. 

Communication disability is incredibly diverse

Communicating is a pretty complicated thing that humans do.

Different areas of communication can be affected, so communication disability or difficulties can look very different from person to person. People may require support in any or all of the areas of communication:

When the wider community recognises and understands the experience of people with communication difficulties, it is easier to ensure communication access for everyone.


Communication advocate and stutterer

‘Society still thinks that when someone stutters that we are nervous, that we are less intelligent. If it's a law enforcement, they may actually think that we're lying. Um, and so these are the problems with society, right? And I think the only way to address that is education and awareness to the 95 to 99% [of the population] to let them know it doesn't mean any of those things that I've just said.’

Learn More

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines communication disability as a wide range of conditions affecting a person's ability to understand and be understood by others. Levels of limitation range from mild to profound and can be temporary or last a lifetime. Download a fact sheet on communication disability from the ABS.