Speech, Language and Communication Needs
What is SLCN?
Some children and young people find it difficult to listen, understand and communicate with others and may need support to develop the surprising number of skills involved.
SLCN is the umbrella term most commonly used to describe these difficulties. It stands for Speech, Language and Communication Needs.
Children with SLCN may have difficulty with only one speech, language or communication skill, or with several. Children may have difficulties with listening and understanding or with talking or both. Each child also has a unique combination of strengths. This means that every child with SLCN is different.
Is it common?
Speech, Language and Communication Needs, or SLCN, is quite common. It is estimated that around 10% of children starting school have SLCN – that’s approximately 2-3 in every classroom
What does a speech and language therapist (SLT) do?
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) describe speech and language therapy as helping manage disorders of speech, language, communication and swallowing in children and adults.
Pembrokeshire Children’s Speech and Language Team Details:
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s speech and language development you should initially discuss this with your child’s class teacher or the school’s ALNCO (Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator).
Below are the contact details for the Pembrokeshire Children’s Speech and Language Therapy Team.
Pembroke Dock Health Centre: 01646 624643
Attention and Listening
A child needs to be able to attend to relevant things in their environment in order to be able to learn. The ability to focus and to maintain concentration is essential in learning language.
Gradually a child learns to shift their focus of attention from one activity or object to another and to listen at the same time.
A child needs to be able to hear before he can speak. However, a child also needs to be able to ‘listen’ and this is very different from hearing.
Listening involves being able to concentrate on the sounds a child hears around him so as to be able to understand where the sounds came from.
It involves: -
- picking out speech from all the other noises that are going on around.
- concentrating on the speech
- hearing and noticing the differences between the speech sounds and
- picking out the differences between words
Download: Attention and Listening Leaflet
Young children learn early communication skills through play. They need lots of opportunities to play. Play, particularly symbolic play, is an important step in language development. For example, by understanding that the toy cup represents the real cup, a child starts to understand that words represent things, people, events etc.
For example: through play the child realises that the toy cup in the tea set is 'symbolic' of the real cup in mummy’s kitchen even though they may look different.
Download: Play and Communication Leaflet
Children learn to talk by hearing words over and over again.
They need to hear a new word many, many times, and understand it, before they are able to try to say them themselves.
Understanding language can also be called 'receptive language' or 'comprehension'.
Download: Understanding leaflet
Talking is how we usually express ourselves. That's why Speech and language therapists often refer to talking as 'Expressive Language'.
Expressive language means your child’s use of language, including the words they use and how they can combine words in sentences. As children develop, their vocabulary increases and they can use more complex sentence structures.
Children learn to talk by hearing words over and over again. They need to hear a new word many, many times before they can try to say it them themselves.
Download: Sentence building leaflet
Download: Vocabulary leaflet
What to expect and when? Advice: Before words (Pre-verbal) Babies communicate before they can speak, by crying, making sounds and using facial expressions such as eye contact and smiling.
‘Speech’ is the sounds we put together to form words. These sounds are formed using the lips, tongue, teeth, mouth and nose.
Young children’s speech is often ‘unclear’, i.e. they use wrong sounds in words. It is important to remember:
- All children develop differently
- Not all children talk clearly from the beginning
- Not all children can say all the sounds right away
- Your child may develop clear speech over time with no help needed
What is Stammering?
Stammering is also referred to as stuttering or dysfluency.
Everyone is dysfluent from time to time, repeating parts of words or using fillers such as ‘ums and ‘ers’.
Download: Dysfluency leaflet
Why is voice care so important?
Your voice box and vocal cords are at risk of wear and tear.
Children’s vocal cords are small and very delicate.
When children talk, their vocal cords vibrate (wobble together) about 300 times per second.
If this vibration is strained it may cause the vocal cords to become sore or irritated.
If this strain continues over a period of time, it becomes difficult for the vocal cords to recover and this may then have an impact on the quality of your child’s voice. When the voice quality becomes hoarse, weak, breathy or strained for a prolonged period, this is called dysphonia.
Why is social interaction important?
Social interaction skills are required to be a successful communicator. Skills include
- knowing how and when to use language in different situations and with different people
- being able to use and understand non-verbal communication such as facial expression, eye contact, body language and turn taking