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Speech Language and Communication Needs - information and support

What are Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)?

Speech – The ability to clearly and accurately make the sounds e.g. “B”, “W”, “sh”

Language – Understanding and using words. Putting them together to make meaningful sentences and larger “chunks” of language.

Communication – The use of language for social interactions between people. This includes non-verbal communication such as facial gestures and body language.

Speech language and communication are important to everything we do including:

  • making our own needs known,
  • expressing our likes and dislikes,  
  • interacting with others
  • building relationships

This is particularly true when children are at school and:

  • learning to read
  • learning more generally in school
  • taking part in social activities
  • making friends
  • learning  and understanding emotions and feelings

Page last updated: 24/05/18

When should parents and professionals start to be concerned?

SLCN (speech, language and communication needs) are often called a hidden difficulty because children with SLCN may look the same as other children but be struggling with unidentified difficulties.

Further investigations should be considered where children are:

  • aren’t talking as much as other children of the same age
  • seen to be struggling to learn to read
  • showing challenging behaviour
  • becoming isolated
  • having difficulty learning
  • having difficulty socialising with others

SLCN can fall into different categories when it is being described as a need:

  • Main need– where the difficulty exists without any other identified developmental or social cause.
  • Secondary need – where difficulties exist with an identified cause like learning, sensory or physical difficulty, such as a hearing loss.

It is important to address these difficulties and needs.

  • 7% of five year olds starting school in England have significant difficulties with speech and language.
  • The vocabulary of a 5 year old is an accurate indicator or GCSE achievement
  • As many as two thirds of older children with behaviour problems can have underlying SLCN

Where can parents get information and advice to help them support their child?

Children and young people who are supported by their parents make the most progress.

Parents are usually the first to notice something might be happening because parents know their children best.

Seeking help and advice and following it at home greatly improves the outcomes for children with SLCN.

Speaking with other parents who may be experiencing similar difficulties and finding out what helped/helps them is always a good idea.

Support is available in Hackney from the Speech and Language Therapy Service. 

SaLT where we work

SaLT who we see

The Speech and Language Services in Hackney...

Hackney’s Speech and Language Service is split into three teams across the borough.


John Scott Health Centre

Tel: 020 7683 4751


Hackney Learning Trust

Tel: 020 8820 7619


Hackney Community College

Tel: 020 783 4642

If you have questions or concerns, do get in touch.

Hackney and City Speech and Language Therapy service have an excellent website with useful information, tips and resources for parents and professionals. 

Find out more:

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