1 in 10 children in the UK have communication difficulties that require specialist help

Imagine spending the next 24 hours unable to express yourself, unable to make your needs known or simply unable to interact with others. The essential speech, language and communication skills you practice daily are often taken for granted; speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are sometimes referred to as “invisible” difficulties. “Speech, language and communication needs” is a general term used to describe any kind of difficulties with speech and language. It is estimated that 1 in 10 children in the United Kingdom have communication difficulties that require specialist help. Children with communication difficulties may seem withdrawn, isolated or labelled as “poorly behaved”. Too frequently these children’s needs are missed, presumed to be “shy” or seen as “difficult” due to the challenges they experience in socialising, reading or learning.

Awareness of the key features of speech, language and communication difficulties can enable the practitioners, teachers and carers who observe children to spot areas for development as early as possible. Early intervention can ensure that children receive the right help to learn, make friends and fulfil their potential.

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

Children may have just some or all of these difficulties; they are all unique. If you have concerns about a child’s speech, language or communication skills, speak to your SENCO, local speech and language therapist or Local Authority Advisor. The first step to helping a child find their voice, is noticing the little clues that complete the big picture.

For further information, resources and publications:
Department for Education – Early Support materials, the Parent Booklet on Communication is useful for both parents and practitioners. I keep a copy near the Parents’ and Carers’ Noticeboards as well as a copy on the staff bookshelf.
I CAN – charity website with a huge array of resources, links, information on I CAN accredited settings, fundraising that focuses on building communication skills (and awareness of SLCN) and a wonderful “call-back” service enabling parents and carers to speak to a speech and language therapist.
Talking Point – a trove of information on communication difficulties, complete with parental advice tool and free resources.
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About Kate Oakley
Senior Early Years Practitioner from the East of England.

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