In this section you will find:

  • information about the different areas of speech, language and communication;  
  • suggestions of how to help your child at home.

Speech, Language and Communication skills are vital for children to reach their full potential in life. Families are most important in helping children to develop these skills which affect so many areas of life -

  • Making friends
  • Learning
  • Joining in at home and at school
  • Making choices and dealing with change

Children start developing communication skills from birth.

It is important to remember that children develop speech, language and communication skills at different rates.

Some develop quickly, while others may take longer.

building blocks

Children generally develop communication skills in the order above, moving from bottom to top.This pyramid shows the building blocks of speech and language development.

What do children need to develop communication?

Attention & Listening  - children need to be able to physically hear as well as to listen and pay attention to language. Children need skills in attention and listening before language can develop successfully. Attention is a skill which develops from birth and is the ability to look and listen to what other people are saying or doing.

For example: a child is able to look at a cup at the same time as an adult and hears the word “cup”.

Play - 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.

Understanding Language - (receptive language) children learn to understand words, sentences and conversations. They need to be able to understand words before they can use them. With a solid foundation of Listening and Attention and Play skills children will develop an understanding of language. Often young children can understand a lot more than they can say.

For example: the child understands that the sounds they hear from the adult e.g. “cup” relate to the object that they can see.

Talking - (expressive language) children learning how to talk, using words and then sentences to share their message and join in conversations. They start with single words and move on to join two words together then three, four etc.

For example: the child has a go at saying “cup” when they see or want the cup.

Speech Sounds - children develop their use of different speech sounds, so they can be understood by others. Some children continue to develop speech sounds up until the age of 7 years.

For example: they may say “tup” for ‘cup’ to start with.

Other areas that might affect communication

Social Interaction - (being sociable) children need to learn how to use language socially. This helps them to make friends.

Environment - a child’s environment can be altered to help communication development eg. by using signs and symbols and routines. This will help their understanding.

Bilingualism - listening to and using more than one language at the same time can affect language development.

Stammering - (dysfluency) some children get stuck on words when they are talking, they may repeat words or sounds or prolong sounds. This can affect their confidence in communicating.

Voice - some children have difficulty with the quality of their voice e.g. it can sound hoarse or husky. This affects different children in different ways and may affect confidence in communicating.

Reluctant Talker - some children feel comfortable talking in familiar environments, but have a phobia about talking in certain situations or with certain people.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, language and communication development, we hope that the information on this website will help.

Click here for links to other websites that also provide advice for families.