Speech and Language Difficulties

The ability to use and understand language is essential for all children too. Children learn language in such a short space of time and this is why the pre-school years are so crucial - with parents and early years workers playing a vital role in encouraging children's communication development.

Problems with speech and language are the most common developmental difficulty that children encounter. Studies indicate that as many as 1 in 10 children in the UK have speech and language difficulties, and these are particularly prevalent in the early years.

But what types of speech and language problems might your child struggle with – and what can you do to help?

  • Understanding spoken language
  • Children may have difficulty with understanding the meaning of words and concepts. They may have problems following instructions, understanding games and tasks, and making sense of what is being said to them. Often children with these difficulties may appear to understand as they may be getting clues from following other children or guessing from the context. However, they may also come across as 'difficult' simply because they do not fully understand what is being said.
  • Spoken language
    Children may have problems with using language. They may have difficulty with words or sentence structure. They may struggle to express themselves in play and activities or tell people how they feel.
  • Speech sound production
    Children may have problems with the intelligibility of their speech - they may have a reduced number of sounds available to them and difficulty making particular sounds in simple or longer words. They may not be easy to understand when they speak or reluctant to speak for fear of not being understood.
  • Attention and listening
    Many children who have speech and language difficulties have problems with listening to spoken language (often when their hearing is okay). They have difficulty concentrating on a task and listening to adult instructions.
  • Social skills
    Children's development of social skills, their sense of self and others, and their ability to form relationships and learn can all be affected by speech and language problems.

Support in school

 Children with difficulties  will need support to get the most out of their school experience. Please speak to your child's teacher if you have any concerns about their speech or understanding of language. 

The school employs a Speech and Language Therapist for half a day, each week. She works with the children who have been referred to her by Mrs McQueen, our SENDCO. Our Speech Therapist is called Emilie Smith. She carries out assessments and provides Speech and Langauge programmes, as needed.

Strategies that can help

A range of practical strategies can be used in an early years setting to identify and support children who may have a speech and language problem.

  • Some children find using visual clues and reminders very useful in helping them follow routine and learn new words and concepts. Use pictures or photos of the children themselves doing the activities, to represent different activities in the day as a visual timetable. Pictures can also be used to help children to choose activities.
  • If speaking is a problem, children could point to a picture of what they want to do. Make sure you demonstrate activities before you ask children to do them, so they have practical, visual information on the sequence of actions they need to do to get to the outcome you want.
  • One of the hardest things to do when you are a fluent adult speaker is to be aware of your own language when talking to children, but this is also one of the most important areas where you can help children develop their language skills. Slow down the rate of your speech, simplify your language and repeat new words and ideas often.
  • Don't feel you have to fill in silence with lots of talking - some children need more time to think before they speak. Make sure you leave gaps for them to fill in. Try to reduce the number of questions you ask and emphasise the important words in the sentence, the ones that carry the information, e.g. "Look, here's the big teddy.”
  • Try to cue children in to what you are doing - say their name, wait for them to look at you. You may need to model language for them by giving them a choice e.g. "Do you want juice or milk?" Or you can repeat what the child has said to confirm you have understood them and to let them hear how the words should sound.
  • Use simple repetitive language for familiar activities, comment on what children are doing in their free play sessions, and try to expand what they say by adding a few words. For example a child might shout: "Truck!" The adult should reply: "That's right, it's a big, blue truck.”
  • Involve your child's teachers. When your child is settling into their new class, it can be invaluable if you give them information which could help develop your child's communication skills – e.g. tell them if your child has special words or gestures for things. 

Paying attention and listening

It is vital that children listen to language. Most children are interested in language and will do this quite naturally. However, some children find it difficult to pay attention and listen and this could affect their language development.

Attention and listening skills help develop social skills. Children need to learn to focus on another person and listen to them in order to take turns, make eye contact, and to engage in conversation and play. You can help them by:

  • Removing distractions. Children will be more able to focus if the noise level is low and distractions are kept to a minimum, so turn the TV and radio off if you want their full attention.
  • Looking at your child when you are talking to them. This reinforces the importance of making eye contact and demonstrates that you are listening to them.
  • Praising good attention and listening skills. Positive feedback will help your child know that they are getting it right and developing these skills.

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Mauldeth Road Primary School
Mauldeth Road,
M14 6SG

Mr Andrew Kilcoyne

T: 0161 224 3588

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