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NDD Local Services and Support - Speech, Language and Communication Needs

Children with Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties:

As with other developmental skills and milestones, the age at which children learn language and start talking can vary. Some children take a little longer - when those around them know about the stages of communication development and how to help, children can progress really well, and follow a steady pattern of development if the right strategies are in place.

If extra help is needed, this can be provided in different ways, depending on what has already been tried, and a child’s level of difficulty.

Universal Support :

This type of speech and language support is for all children.

A skilled workforce of practitioners, e.g. early years (health visitors and nursery nurses), teaching staff and teaching assistants make sure the child or young person is surrounded by people who know how to:

•help their speech, language and communication develop

•ensure  communication skills they  have work as well as possible for them – whether at home, in the classroom, at Granny’s house, or out and about.

•identify when a child may have a communication difficulty that needs more support.

Why do we need a Universal Level?

Many people think that speech and language development   “just happens” naturally.  This isn’t the case for all children, and research shows that there is inconsistent knowledge of e.g. speech language and communication milestones, and how to help. Universal services help to bridge gaps in awareness and knowledge so that families and others can help children develop better speech, language and communication skills.

Speech, language and communication skills develop and are used at every waking moment of a child’s life. This means that every moment is an opportunity to help the child develop these skills. By adopting a universal model, children can receive help all the time rather than for only a small number of hours a week at face-to-face sessions with a therapist.

A child will progress faster if they are growing up in a supportive environment created through universal speech and language therapy services.  Universal services improve speech, language and communication skills of ALL children – not just those with identified with a difficulty.

Targeted level speech and language therapy

Targeted speech and language therapy is focusses on children who need more than a universal approach. It is used when children and young people are known to have a Speech Language and Communication Need and where there is a risk of educational, emotional or other difficulties arising as result of their SLCN.

A targeted approach may consist of :

Training for parents, teachers, early years practitioners, classroom assistants etc. to develop particular aspects of speech and language development (such as increasing vocabulary, asking questions or expressing feelings appropriately)

•training for teachers and classroom assistants to adapt their language and teaching materials so that the child can understand and join in lessons on a day-to-day basis

•monitoring of  speech, language and communication development through progress reports from teachers and others, then offering support and advice on how to overcome particular difficulties.

Why do we need a Targeted Level?

Targeted provision is a way of providing more tailored speech, language and communication support for children and young people with SLCN in all environments. Children can receive support for their speech, language and communication development, which supports other areas of their learning.

Specialist level speech and language therapy

Specialist level speech and language therapy is provided to those children and young people with complex SLCN requiring specific programmes or to those who are not progressing with universal and/or targeted provision.  It is usually provided in episodes – the child sees a speech and language therapist individually or in a group, for a specific timeframe, and then has periods of targeted work carried out at home and at school, where they do not need to see the therapist.

Specialist speech and language therapy will typically involve a combination of direct and indirect therapy via other people trained to deliver the programme e.g. parents, speech and language therapy assistants, nursing or teaching staff. Speech and language assistants deliver programmes designed by the speech and language therapist under their supervision.

Not all children with complex SLCN will develop speech, language and communication skills to a level where they understand and speak like other children.  For these children the aim of speech and language therapy is to develop their understanding and expressive skills to their fullest potential and to enable them to use those skills as effectively as possible -  this  might include  use  Augmentative or Alternative Communication (AAC) systems such as sign language (Signalong or Makaton),  symbols, photographs and objects or  ‘talking machines’.


What should I do if I’m concerned about my Child’s speech and Language Development?

If you are concerned about your child’s talking or communication skills, your first steps can be to approach your child’s health visitor or early year’s practitioner for pre-schoolers, or your child’s teacher, for school aged children. 

There is also help and information you can access on the Bedfordshire and Luton Speech and Language Therapy Website, which contains information and resources to help you, and information about how to refer to the service:

Other useful websites for information on supporting children’s communication skills include The Communication Trust

and ICan’s Talking Point :

You may also find the Bedfordshire and Luton Speech and Language Therapy Service Facebook page useful – the site is updated daily with tips and links to further sources of support.

Below you will find a list of services that are available both locally and nationally to support in this area. These services have been listed under the following categories:

Universal – These services are available to everyone, without the need for any referral

Targeted – These services provide more targeted support to address a need, further information about targeted support is available on the Bedfordshire Speech and  Language Therapy (SALT) website which is accessible here

Specialist – At this stage a referral is required, for information about to get child referred please see the SALT website here . 

We have also worked with the Council for Disabled Children to create a list of useful resources that are available through national organisations.