Speech, language and communication play a vital role in our lives. Without being able to talk to and understand other people we can’t do things like communicate with our families, buy things at the shops, watch television, build relationships, socialise and learn. A child’s knowledge of language, including complex language development (ambiguity, expressing the main idea or summarising, telling a story), is necessary to support learning and social development. Adequate language skills are critical for school and social success. Some important considerations include the following:
- Symbolic and academic skills are built on speech, language and auditory abilities
- The ability to express oneself verbally impacts written expression
- The ability to understand language impacts a child’s reading ability
- Language difficulties are a major aspect of many reading and writing disabilities, sometimes as the cause and sometimes as the consequence
- Higher level language difficulties in areas such as sarcasm, ambiguity and humour affect social success
- Telling a story with a beginning, middle and end , presenting a point of view and describing a procedure involve complex language skills
In school-aged children, language difficulties often become obvious as children begin reading and writing.
Children develop speech, language and communication skills at different rates. Some develop quickly, while others may take longer. Children begin to understand words before they can say them. They then learn how to say these words and how to put them together to make sentences.
Children need to:
- Learn tounderstand words, sentences and conversations – receptive language.
- Learn how totalk using words and sentences – expressive language.
- Know how to use their language For example, listening as well as talking, or talking to a teacher differently than to a friend – pragmatic language.
- Sayspeech sounds correctly so they can be understood by others – phonological awareness.
Most children follow a similar pattern in learning sounds. Some children have difficulty in learning and using sounds in the right places for words.
Usually, most children will be using a full range of speech sounds by the time they are 5 years. Some children however, will have difficulty in developing these skills.
Children may be experiencing difficulties if they:
- Only use a small number of sounds.
- Are swapping one sound for another for example saying ‘tat’ instead of ‘cat’.
- Are missing the ending off words.
- Have difficulty with vowel sounds such as saying ‘poor’ instead of ‘pear’ or ‘pot’ instead of ‘pat’.
- Have difficulty with long or complicated words like ‘banana’ or ‘aeroplane’.
Good sound skills are needed when learning to talk. They are also important for developing reading and spelling
Receptive language is understanding when others use language. Your child may have a difficulty with receptive language if they are challenged with:
- Understanding what you or others are saying
- Understanding simple words
- Understanding gestures
- Following directions and instructions
- Understanding what they read (reading comprehension)
Expressive language is how we use words to communicate our wants, needs and ideas. You might notice that a child who is showing difficulties with expressive language may be challenged with:
- Using an age appropriate number of words (vocabulary)
- Using a variety of words
- Putting words together into sentences
- Taking turns in conversation
- Using ‘wh” words such as when, what, who, where, why used in asking questions
- Using correct pronouns for example he, she , they
- Telling a story with a simple beginning, middle and end
Pragmatics relates to the social use of language. Children who experience difficulty with pragmatics are challenged by:
- Engaging in social interactions with others
- Understanding verbal and non-verbal cues
- Understanding someone else’s point of view
- Telling stories
- Expressing opinions
- School performance such as literacy
- Understanding jokes, puns, sarcasm, idioms and other play with language
Alternative forms of communication
There are many different ways to communicate and there are many strategies that can help children who find it difficult to communicate using conventional forms. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (or AAC) are the different ways to communicate in addition to, or in replacement of, speech or writing.
Prolonged periods of time without a communication system can lead to frustration or may result in reduced interest and passivity. Communication systems that will allow children to have some control in their lives and to demonstrate what they can achieve should be introduced as early as possible.
Our specialists can assist children who are having difficulty with communication find alternatives to support them.
Book an initial meeting to discuss Communication Support for your child here.