Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)

Children with speech, language and communication needs find it difficult to communicate with others.

This may be for a variety of reasons:

  • they find it difficult to listen
  • they are unable to say what they want to
  • they do not understand the words that are being used
  • they are not yet using many words and do not talk as well or as much as other children of the same age
  • they do not seem to know how to have a conversation with others

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Identifying speech, language and communication needs

Children start to develop their speech and communication when they are babies. This will continue to develop at different rates as they get older. Some will develop their speech and language quickly, while others may take longer.

Some children may be identified as having

  • delayed speech and/or language development where they are developing in the typical way, just a bit slower than expected
  • phonological disorders, which affects the development of the speech sound system
  • articulation difficulties which affects the child’s ability to produce specific speech sounds
  • developmental language disorder (DLD) which is a condition where children have problems understanding and/or using spoken language
  • verbal dyspraxia, a condition where children have difficulty in making and co-ordinating the precise movements needed to produce clear speech with their mouths
  • stammering, when a child’s speech is affected, for example how they speak is jerky, they cannot seem to get started with talking and/or they repeat sounds in words or repeat part of the word
  • social communication difficulties, which refers to the social use of language. These difficulties arise when a child is unaware of the appropriate use of and interpretation of both verbal and non-verbal language in social situations. Some children with social communication difficulties may go on to get a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

It is not always easy to spot if your child has a SLCN. Whilst it may be fairly straightforward to identify a child who has unclear speech, other difficulties with talking are not always easy to spot.  SLCN may be hidden behind difficulties with paying attention, following instructions or getting on with others.

The following charities have resources available for children, parents and professionals to use.

ICAN CHARITY is the children's communication charity.

Afasic provides a helpline for families regarding Speech and language needs.

National Autistic Society has information, advice and resources.

What to do if I have concerns and how to request help

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development, you can contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service in the following ways:

Visit the Sirona care & health’s Children’s Service Website: Children and Young People’s Services – Providing NHS and Local Authority funded children's community services for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (sirona-cic.org.uk)

Here is a link to the Early years (pre school) page: Early Years Speech & Language Therapy – Children and Young People’s Services (sirona-cic.org.uk)

Here is a link to the School age page: School Age Speech and Language Therapy Service – Children and Young People’s Services (sirona-cic.org.uk)

Here is a link to the Autism Assessment Service pages: Autism Spectrum Assessment Service – Children and Young People’s Services (sirona-cic.org.uk)

Early Years Telephone Advice Line

A telephone drop in line for anyone with a child aged between 0-4 to talk about their child’s speech and language development.

Telephone: 0300 125 5139. This line operates every Wednesday between 9.30am -12noon.

School Age service

All local state schools and academies have a Link SLT. They are the point of contact for any SLT concerns. This includes the Special Schools and Units. Your school SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) will have their contact details or you can call the Speech and Language Therapy Advice Line or email the Speech and Language Therapy Service team to find these out. 

School age Telephone Advice Line: 0300 125 5140. This line operates every Wednesday morning 9am – 12noon.

All Ages

Email the Speech and Language Therapy Service team with your query and someone will reply with information about what to do next.

Training for parents 

Our training team are involved in delivering courses to both parents and education staff across Early Years and School Age.  Information is available on the website pages – see links above.

What speech and language therapy (SLT) does

Speech and language therapy is concerned with the management of disorders of speech, language, communication and swallowing. 

They assess, diagnose and provide advice and support for children with a range of speech, language and communication difficulties. Main areas of work include;

  • difficulties with understanding and using language e.g. vocabulary development, language processing, word finding and putting words into sentences
  • speech sound difficulties (depending on a child’s age)
  • social interaction skills and abilities at a range of levels

For some children with complex needs, speech and language therapists also assess eating, drinking and swallowing abilities and offer advice and support as needed.

Find out more about speech, language and communication need referrals and what support is available before assessment.

Alternative augmentative communication aids

The CCHP Speech and Language Therapy service offers a core service for children who require alternative and augmentative communication aids (AAC).  Children referred into the service with identified AAC needs can access an assessment and sessions with a specialist therapist.  The therapist will work closely with your child, the family and education setting to ensure that everyone understands how to use the child’s communication aid to support and develop functional communication through the aid.

The therapist also can support your child’s application to AAC West should this be clinically appropriate.

The AAC West of England Specialist Team (AAC West) Service can help with aids that help a person to communicate effectively when they have little, or no speech. 

Once a child is referred, this team carry out their own assessment to decide what support they can offer.