Each child is an individual but here are some possible scenarios:

The child who is not able to speak but understands language and can communicate with a device.

This child will have a programme from a speech and language therapist which will include use of a communication device. This may be low- or hi-tech and all adults working with the child should be aware of how it is used, making sure it is always working and has batteries.

The child who can vocalise but for whom words convey little meaning.

Use total communication where the child’s facial expressions, gestures and eye movements are all taken as forms of communication.

The child who understands speech but has difficulty speaking clearly

This child can be understood but not easily, especially by strangers, and they can get very frustrated. They will be working on certain sounds with a speech and language therapist.

The child whose speech seems normal but who has difficulty in understanding concepts and expressing themselves.

This child needs a programme of speech and language therapy to develop awareness of how speech is used to communicate and how it is structured.

The child who is an elective mute.

Usually elective mutes understand what is being said but choose not to respond, possibly for emotional reasons.

Remember that with communication difficulties there are so many possible causes, some linked to other impairments, that each child needs to be looked at as individual.

You can:

  • Allow time for any child with communication difficulties to process information and to respond. If a question is put clearly, do not rephrase it; just allow time for the response, watching the child carefully.
  • Use sign language such as Makaton to support key words. It will help understanding and focus the child on the words that are important.
Read communication tips from our online community.

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