Early years support for children with speech, language and communication difficulties

Communication is a vital skill that all children need to learn. Children develop communication skills from birth. They rely on speech, language and communication to be able to learn at school and play with their friends. They need these skills to reach their full potential.

Children need to:

  • Learn to understand words, sentences and conversations. This is often called 'receptive language'
  • Learn how to talk using words and sentences. This is often called 'expressive language'
  • Know how to use their language socially. For example, listening as well as talking, or talking to a teacher differently than to a friend. This is often called 'pragmatic language'
  • Say speech sounds correctly so they can be understood by others

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 develop speech, language and communication skills at different rates. Some develop quickly, while others may take longer.

If you have children who have delayed speech and language skills in your setting or class it is important to take action, as early intervention can make a big difference.

What action can I take?

Make assessments of the child's communication skills. Use the Talking Matters profile, ECAT screening tool or similar.

You can download these and the other leaflets and resources on this page.

View and download resources and information sheets

You can also:

  • Discuss the child with colleagues, particularly the Senco - do they share your concerns?
  • Discuss the child with parents/carers. Do they have concerns? Use your observations and assessments to help show parents what you think the child's difficulties are.


Refer the child for Speech and Language Therapy - you can do this, or parents can do it themselves or through their health visitor or GP:


Herefordshire Council Learning and Achievement Service provides training to help you support children to develop communication skills. These include:

Leaflets to share with parents

There are leaflets online with more information and to share with parents:

Small group work

There is also information you can download from the resources page to help you plan small group work to develop communication skills:

  • Play and Say
  • Fun with Sounds
  • Tool to support small group work
  • Support for small group work - Record of intervention

External links

The following external sites may also be helpful: