- 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.
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
Role of speech and language therapy
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)
- Over 60%of young people in the youth justice estate have communication difficulties. (Bryan et al, 2007)
- 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).
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
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
- Practical activities
- Briefings for parents, educational professionals, children and young people, and others
See RCSLT Factsheets on
- Supporting children and young people
- Looked after children
- Social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing
- Working with young offenders
- Infant dysphagia
- Intergenerational cycle
Other useful resources
- RCSLT resources on Language Disorder
- Information leaflet for school staff on Developmental Language Disorder produced by NHS Whittington Health Trust.
- Schools measuring up on SLCN
- National Association of Head Teachers 2017 school readiness report
- ACE Centre
- Action for Children
- Action for Stammering Children
- Ambitious about Autism
- ARCOS (Association for rehabilitation of communication and oral skills)
- Auditory Verbal UK
- British Academy of Childhood Disability
- British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD) – professional
- British Dyslexia Association
- British Stammering Association
- Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC)
- Communication Matters
- Council for Disabled Children
- Department of Education – England
- Department of Education – Northern Ireland
- Department of Education – Scotland
- Department of Education – Wales
- Down’s Syndrome Association
- Early Intervention Foundation
- Highland Literacy
- NAPLIC – professional
- NASEN – professional
- National Association of Head Teachers – professional
- National Autistic Society
- National Deaf Children’s Society
- National Literacy Trust
- National Network of Parent Carer Forums
- SMIRA (Selective Mutism Information and Research Association)
- Symbol UK
- The Communication Trust
For organisations relating to specific client groups see our clinical information.
For videos about a range of SLT activities, visit the RCSLT YouTube channel.
Contact us if you have any questions about the information provided here.