Children's speech, language and communication needs

What are Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)?

About one in ten children who struggle to communicate have speech, language and communication needs. These skills are crucial for reading, learning in school, for socialising and making friends, and for understanding and controlling emotions or feelings.

A child with speech, language and communication needs may:

  • Have speech that is difficult to understand
  • Struggle to say words or sentences
  • Not understand words that are being used, or the instructions they hear
  • Have difficulties knowing how to talk and listen to others in a conversation

Your child may have some or all of these difficulties; each child is different.

Normal speech and language development

Communication is complex, however its development does follow a typical pattern.

Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) consider a number of aspects of development, often referred to as the pyramid of communication. Each skill can only develop if the skills underneath it have been firmly established.

For example, a child needs to develop their attention and listening before they will be able to fully engage in play. Their understanding then develops through play. When understanding is developed, a child will be able to learn how express themselves. Finally speech will come.

How do you know if your child has speech, language and communication needs? 

A child or young person with SLCN might say:

"I find it hard to concentrate on what people are saying"
"It's hard to understand some of the words people say"
"I don't always know that someone is talking to me. I have to watch the other people at school to see what to do"
"I don't hear or remember everything people say to me. Sometimes I only remember the first or last bit"
"I can't understand when someone talks in long sentences"
"I know what I want to say, but can't get the words out"
"My sentences get in a muddle. I have lots of ideas, but I can't say them the right way"
"I can think of a good story but it goes wrong when I write it"
"My words sound funny sometimes. People don't understand what I say."
"I can't always hear the sounds in words"
"I want to join in with my friends but they are talking too fast"
"I don't really understand the rules of the game"
"I forget what we were talking about and talk about something else"
"I don't know what to say to people when I meet them"
"I get frustrated and angry"
"Reading and writing are difficult"

Online resources to help you check: 

There are a number of online resources you can use, to see if you think your child might needs speech and language therapy.

If you have concerns

If you are worried about your child’s communication and language development you can: 

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