Speech, language and communication needs

Speech, language, and communication is important for:

  • reading
  • learning
  • making friends
  • understanding and controlling emotions or feelings.

Every child or young person with SLCN is different and may have difficulty with one, some or all of the different aspects of SLC at different times of their lives. With the right support at the right time, children, and young people with SLCN can thrive.

In Kent, SLCN is the most common need in primary school, and the second most common need in secondary schools.

Views of children  and young people with SLCN

We spoke to children and young people in Kent who have SLCN and asked them how they feel:

"I say I don't know because I don't know how to explain"

"I don't understand, you're saying too much to me"

"Don't ask me to read aloud or in front of my friends"

"others ignore me or walk away when I'm talking"

"I don't know what to say, and can't use the right words"

"People don't listen to me"

"Sometimes I do things to get in trouble to avoid talking or asking for help"

Children and young people in Kent's voice as told to professionals

Support from your education setting

If you have any worries about your child or young person, you should talk to their teacher or the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO).

If they feel that your child or young person has SEN, extra learning support will be put in place. Over time they will learn more about your child or young person, and will go through a 4 part process called the 'assess, plan, do, review cycle' (the graduated approach).

Depending on your child or young person's needs they may receive the following specific support.

The educational setting will offer additional support if your child or young person has difficulty with attention and listening. It could be they do one or more of these things:

  • asking off topic questions
  • disrupting others
  • easily distracted
  • fidgeting
  • not asking for help
  • quiet and withdrawn.

The support they offer could include:

  • using tabletop screens to reduce distractions
  • giving additional time to process and respond to questions (10 second rule)
  • introducing a talk buddy or a circle of friends support
  • looking at their seating positions in the classroom
  • providing active listening groups on a short term  basis
  • reducing outdoor distractions, such as closing blinds or curtains
  • providing visual support, for example:
    • photos
    • signs and gestures
    • symbols
    • timetables
  • supplying Lego based interventions and games
  • using simplified language, emphasising on keywords.

The educational setting will offer additional support if your child or young person has difficulty putting sentences together. It could be they do one or more of these things:

  • avoid eye contact during a moment of stammering
  • does not speak in whole sentences
  • finds it hard to start a word, a sentence or no sound comes out for several seconds
  • move their body to push out a word, for example foot stamping or finger tapping
  • muddle their words when retelling a story
  • put extra effort into saying words
  • repeat whole words or parts of words several times
  • stretch out sounds in a word
  • use few words
  • often use tenses incorrectly.

The support they offer could include:

  • acknowledging any signs of anxiety of frustration
  • encouraging a thinking time
  • slowing down their speech or pause to provide a helpful response
  • support them to take their time to start and finish sentences
  • support them through language groups, for example:
  • teaching language sequencing and question words, for example who, what, where, why and when
  • using drama or role play experiences to support in retelling stories
  • using narrative programmes.

The educational setting will offer additional support if your child or young person has difficulty with talking. It could be they do one or more of these things:

  • hardly speaks or not at all
  • does not smile and looks blank
  • finds it difficult to speak to you when they're anxious
  • finds it difficult to say hello, goodbye or thank you
  • has good concentration skills
  • is more sensitive to noise
  • is very sensitive to the feeling of others
  • speaks only in certain environments, for example at home or a family home
  • speaks to other children and not adults
  • worries more than others in their class.

The support they offer could include:

  • ensuring all associations with speaking is positive
  • giving them a job or responsibility in the classroom
  • providing opportunities to allow them to talk, but not to expect a response
  • removing all pressures to speak
  • responding positively to non-verbal communication.

The educational setting will offer additional support if your child or young person has difficulty with understanding communication. It could be they do one or more of these things:

  • appears distracted or disengaged
  • does not follow instructions
  • has difficulties with new information or concepts
  • has increased anxiety due to feelings of confusion
  • is unable to use vocabulary in different situations
  • limits their responses to questions
  • misunderstands tasks or rules
  • often watches others
  • uses empty words often such as 'thingy', 'stuff', 'you know'
  • uses literal understandings.

The support they offer could include:

  • ask questions using:
  • get their attention before asking questions by repeating their name
  • give additional time to process and respond to questions (10 second rule)
  • introduce a talk buddy or a circle of friends support
  • support them to take their time to start and finish sentences
  • tailor different styles of teaching
  • use visual supports and multisensory approaches, including:
    • checklists
    • pictures
    • real objects
    • storyboards
    • task boards.

A specialist resource provision (SRP) provides support for those, who without specialist input, are unlikely to make progress in their learning and will struggle to take part in mainstream school life. In time, it is expected they will be able to attend most of their mainstream lessons and take part with others.

In Kent, we have 2 specialist resource provisions for SLCN children and young people, and 2 special schools for those with more complex SLCN.

For additional support and guidance read the mainstream core standards which sets out how education settings should be supporting your family.

Support from the NHS

Your child or young person can also receive support from speech and language therapy (a targeted health service). The therapy provided by the NHS can support those who have difficulties in:

  • communication
  • eating
  • drinking
  • swallowing.

Find your nearest speech and language therapy.

Additional advice and support

If you think your child might have SLCN, you should first talk to a someone who looks after your child professionally. This may be a:

You can also:

Improving support for young people with SLCN

We are working with the Kent and Medway NHS Clinical Commissioning Group to transform the support for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in Kent. The improvements will mean that young people have fair outcomes and will receive the right support at the right time.

Find out more and keep up to date with the project.