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Rice Lane Primary School

Be happy together, Believe together, Achieve together

Speech and Language

About Speech, Language & Communication Needs (SLCN)


Speech, language and communication underpin everything we do – making our needs known, expressing our likes and dislikes, interacting with others and building relationships.


We often take these skills for granted, but many children struggle to communicate. They have speech, language and communication needs or SLCN.

A child with speech, language and communication needs:


  • Might have speech that is difficult to understand
  • They might struggle to say words or sentences
  • They may not understand words that are being used, or the instructions they hear
  • They may have difficulties knowing how to talk and listen to others in a conversation
  • Children may have just some or all of these difficulties; they are all very different.
  • Speech, language and communication are crucial for reading, learning in school, for socialising and making friends, and for understanding and controlling emotions or feelings.


SLCN is often called a ‘hidden difficulty’. Many children with SLCN look just like other children, and can be just as clever. This means that instead of communication difficulties people may see children struggling to learn to read, showing poor behaviour, having difficulties learning or socialising with others. Some children may become withdrawn or isolated. Their needs are often misinterpreted, misdiagnosed or missed altogether.


What causes SLCN?


There is no obvious cause of SLCN. We know that the speech and language part of the brain does not develop in the right way, even though there are no other problems, and that genes play an important part in causing SLCN. Unfortunately there is no medical test to see if a child has SLCN or not.


How many children have SLCN?


Studies have shown that in 5 year olds, SLCN affects about 2 children in every classroom (about 7%). It is more common in boys than girls.

How can children with SLCN be helped?

Children with SLCN won’t learn language in the same way as other children, just by being spoken to and encouraged. They need language to be taught. They need to get the right support to do this so that they can learn and develop to their full potential. Without this support, SLCN may cause a child lifelong difficulties.

Children with SLCN will continue to need support throughout school. The type of difficulties a child with SLCN has can change as they get older. For example they may get better at understanding what other people are saying but still struggle to put sentences together.

If a child's speech cannot be understood by family or other adults school will make a referral to Speech and Language Therapy.  The waiting time for a first appointment is around 20 weeks.  To make this referral you will need to sign a couple of forms.  If the Speech Therapist decides therapy is necessary the child is usually seen in school or nursery.  It is particularly important to make a referral if there have been other family members who have needed speech therapy.  It is never too early to make a referral.

We can also give some support in school.  All members of staff have completed the SLCN Inclusion Development Programme and school has an excellent working relationship with the Speech Therapy Department.  One of our Learning Support Officers has completed a specialised language course.

Initially we will support children with Listening and Attention.  Vital skills can be learned through a variety of games played in small groups within school.

If a child has well developed Listening and Attention skills we can then support their Receptive Language.  This means children's understanding of language.  Again this can be developed in small groups by some fun activities.

Once a child has well developed Receptive Language we can then support their Expressive Language.  This means the vocabulary and grammar a child uses.

Sometimes a child may have difficulties with Social Communication.  This means understanding the rules of communicating such as taking turns to speak, understanding body language and facial expressions, and being able to respond to a topic of conversation instead of always talking about the topic of their choice.  We have games in school that can help with social communication.


Usually children make excellent progress in any of these areas.  If they do not then we would make a referral to Speech and Language therapy.

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