Supporting children and young people with communication needs

Published: 26/06/2024

Author: Research in Practice

Communication difficulties are a core characteristic for people with a learning disability. A new four-part practice guide aims to enable decision-making by children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). 

An estimated one in ten children in the UK have long-term SLCN and it is the most common type of need among pupils with special educational needs. However, it is often considered to be a ‘hidden’ disability with children frequently missed, misinterpreted or misdiagnosed.  

The practice guide offers guidance, tips and practice pointers for practitioners to involve a child or young person with SLCN in making decisions about their lives. The primary focus is to ensure the voices of children and young people with SLCN are heard. 

Explore the four-part practice guide 

What do we mean by speech, language and communication needs? Part one focuses on understanding the lived experiences of children and young people with SLCN. This includes a discussion of definitions, prevalence and the ‘hidden’ nature of SLCN.

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How can we ensure children with SLCN are given the same rights to communicate as all other children? Part two focuses on why inclusive communication matters, summarising the duties to involve children with SLCN in decision-making as set out in legislation, statutory guidance and practice frameworks. 

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How can we use the social model of disability to improve communication? Part three provides guidance for practitioners on how to strengthen their listening mindset, including by exploring their own values and beliefs, and using models of participation. 

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What are some creative ways to support communication? Part four offers practical tips, ideas and guidance for practitioners who are trying to ensure the participation of a child or young person with SLCN within assessment or decision-making processes. 

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Good communication is a key component of good practice. It’s essential that practitioners feel confident in how they communicate with children with SLCN and understand the importance of doing so.