Where SLTs work – children’s services

Approximately 60% of speech and language therapists (SLTs) within the RCSLT membership work with children and young people across the UK, supporting those with speech, language and communication needs, as well as feeding and swallowing difficulties.

This is across a wide range of settings, from schools, family homes and community areas to hospitals and specialist centres.

Find out more about the role of SLTs in children’s services.

If you’re a speech and language therapist, please sign up or log in to access the full version of this content.

Key points

  • Over 10% of children have speech, language and communication needs
  • In areas of social deprivation, upwards of 50% of children can start school with communication difficulties. (Law et al, 2011; Locke et al, 2002)
  • If left unidentified and unsupported, communication needs can have long-term implications for children and young people’s life outcomes
  • SLTs work directly with children and their families to develop personalised strategies to support a child’s individual needs.
  • SLTs provide training to other professionals so they can identify the signs of SLCN and support them appropriately.
  • The activities of SLTs working in children’s services can be directly linked to the achievement of outcomes for children and young people.

Impact on outcomes

The Impact of Speech, Language and Communication Needs


  • One in four children who struggled with language at the age of five did not reach the expected standard in English at the end of primary school, compared with one in 25 children who had good language skills at age five. (Save the Children, 2016)


  • One in five children who struggled with language at age five did not reach the expected standard in maths at the end of primary school compared with one in 50 children who had good language skills at age five. (Save the Children, 2016)


  • 81% of children with emotional and behavioural disorders have significant language deficits. (Hollo et al, 2014)

Offending behaviour

  • Over 60%of young people in the youth justice estate have communication difficulties. (Bryan et al, 2007)

Mental health

  • Children with vocabulary difficulties at age 5 are three times as likely to have mental health problems in adulthood. (Law et al, 2009)


  • Children with vocabulary difficulties at age 5 are twice as likely to be unemployed when they reach adulthood. (Law et al, 2009).

Defining terms

Speech refers to saying sounds accurately and in the right places in words. It also relates to speaking fluently, without hesitating, prolonging or repeating words or sounds. It also means speaking with expression in a clear voice, using pitch, volume and intonation to add meaning.

Language refers to understanding and making sense of what people say. It also includes using words to build up sentences which are used in longer stretches of spoken language and to build conversations. This skill involves putting information in the right order to make sense

Communication refers to how we interact with others; being able to talk to people and take turns as well as change language to suit the situation. It includes non-verbal communication, for example eye contact, gestures and facial expressions. In addition, communication relates to being able to consider another person’s perspective, intentions and the wider context.

Taken from: RCSLT (2017), Justice Evidence Base

RCSLT guidance

Placing children and young people at the heart of delivering quality speech and language therapy: guidance on principles, activities and outcomes.

As part of the RCSLT strategy for children and young people’s speech and language therapy services, we partnered in dialogue with our members, along with families and other professionals working with children and young people.

This led to the development of outcomes for children and young people that are directly connected to the activities undertaken by speech and language therapists. It also revealed underlying guiding principles that run through all settings.

These guiding principles, activities and outcomes are incorporated in this guidance document: a downloadable, printable resource that’s easily shared with decision makers, colleagues, families, and other professionals working with children and young people.

Bercow: Ten Years On

In 2018, the RCSLT and I CAN, the children’s communication charity published Bercow: Ten Years On. This is an independent review of provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs in England.

As a result of evidence gathered from children and young people, SLTs, parents and carers, education professionals, commissioners and others, the RCSLT and I CAN produced recommendations for change, calls to action and resources to sit alongside the report.

Visit the Bercow: Ten Years On website to find:

  • ‘How to’ information sheets for parents, educational professionals and others
  • Presentations
  • Practical activities
  • Briefings for parents, educational professionals, children and young people, and others


RCSLT Factsheets

See RCSLT factsheets on a range of topics including:

  • Supporting children and young people
  • Looked after children
  • Social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing
  • Safeguarding
  • Working with young offenders
  • Infant dysphagia
  • Intergenerational cycle

Other useful resources


For organisations relating to specific client groups see our clinical information.


For videos about a range of SLT activities, visit the RCSLT YouTube channel.

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