Supporting children with speech, language and communication needs

Boy screaming into microphone

Some children have a condition or disability that affects their speech or language, such as a hearing impairment, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.

Speech and language difficulties may relate to one or a combination of the following:

  • A child's understanding of language - child may have difficulty understanding words, sentences or instructions
  • A child's ability to use language to express themselves - they may find it difficult to express their own ideas, wants or feelings
  • Speech sound difficulties - these can make it hard for people to understand what a child is saying

If you are unsure about the developmental stages of speech and language, visit How speech and language develop SCC Guidance which provides information of what to expect around different age milestones.

Five considerations when working with a child with SLCN

Below are key things to consider ahead of engaging a child with speech language and communication needs (SLCN).

  • Do you have recent information about how best to communicate with the child or young person?
  • Have you liaised with those who know the child or young person best and have developed a plan about how best to involve the child or young person?
  • Have you completed research on how the child or young person communicates so you will be able to effectively interact using their preferred methods?
  • Are you able to provide the child or young person with a range of opportunities to build a relationship with you so that they are able to effectively communicate?
  • How will you endeavour to help the child or young person to communicate about their health and how they are feeling?

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) have published a paper that discusses safeguarding children with communications needs.

You can view more guides on the RCSLT website.

Speech and Language UK have a dedicated area for professionals where there is a wealth of free resources to support practitioners when working with children with speech, language and communication needs.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary
NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight
Southampton City Council