Communication skills are vital for learning, play, friendships, and well-being. Children will develop at different rates, but there are typical stages of communication development from birth – age 14+ across a number of key areas.
These key areas are represented in the pyramid below with the skills at the bottom acting as the foundations for the skills at the top. When working on communication skills, we therefore need to ensure the areas at the bottom are solid before focusing on the ones further up. Conversation and interaction skills are important at every level in the pyramid.
The Communication Carousel discusses children’s communication development in each of these areas by age or stage of development. It also includes activities and resources linked to each area and stage of development. Start off focusing on the foundation skills further down the pyramid and working up to the higher-levels.
If you would like to check the progress of a child’s communication skills, you can use the Progress Checker on the Talking Point website. Once you have done this, you can come back to our website and look at activities for the suggested areas using our Communication Carousel.
Parents of young children may find the following tips from ICan helpful:
The Speech and Language Therapy Service in Buckinghamshire
The Children’s Speech and Language Therapy Service works with children and young people from birth to 25 years old. We work in partnership with families and staff at schools and Early Years settings. We can provide training, liaison and advice to families and staff working directly with the child or young person.
We enskill the key people in the child’s environment, who are then able to develop his/her communication on a daily basis. Where appropriate, we may work at home, in the classroom, in small groups or individually with children on specific targets agreed jointly with the child’s family and school.
If you have attempted some of the activities on our Communication Carousel, and have concerns about your child’s communication development, speak to your child’s school or Early Years setting about your concerns in the first instance. They will be able to access support from a Speech and Language Therapist at their termly Link Meeting, who may be able to provide initial advice.
You may also be interested in information about some of the following areas that Speech and Language Therapists are commonly involved with. Click on the boxes below to find out more:
Bilingualism refers to the understanding and use of two or more languages. This can be an advantage for many reasons, as it provides children with opportunities to communicate with their extended family and community, and experience different cultures. Good foundation skills in one language can support learning of an additional language. There is no evidence that bilingual children speak later than children who only speak one language. Bilingualism in the family neither increases nor decreases the chances of a child having speech or language difficulties.
Information and advice for parents of bilingual children is available in our handout ‘Your Bilingual Child‘.
We see a variety of children and young people who may have complex communication needs due to conditions such as cerebral palsy, genetic conditions, severe epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, ABI (acquired brain injury) (e.g. head injuries) including RTAs and degenerative neurological conditions.
Buckinghamshire Speech and Language Therapists have training in working with children with Down syndrome and have access to a wide range of specialist resources. Therapists can also access support from colleagues with more specialist clinical knowledge and experience in the areas of hearing impairment, eating and drinking difficulties, visual impairment and other clinical difficulties which may also form part of a child with Down syndrome’s difficulties.
Speech and Language therapists work with children and young people who have difficulties with eating, drinking or swallowing (which are referred to as dysphagia). The signs of eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties may include:
Difficulty with oro-motor movements of eating, such as biting, sucking and chewing
Frequent chest infections
Coughing and choking whilst eating or drinking
Failure to thrive
If you are concerned about any of the above signs, please contact your GP or Consultant to discuss making a referral, as we are only able to accept referrals from medical professionals for this area of input
We work with children with different types of hearing loss including congenital and acquired sensorineural, permanent conductive and auditory neuropathy/dys-synchrony. We also work with hearing children of Deaf parents where the home language is British Sign Language (BSL).
We assess and support children and young people in their homes, Early Years settings, schools and Further Education (FE) colleges to maximise opportunities to develop effective communication within the context of their hearing difficulties. We use a range of communication approaches including spoken language, Sign Supported English, and/or BSL as appropriate.
Some children have difficulties learning and using language, that are not caused by other factors (such as autistic spectrum conditions, hearing impairment or more general learning difficulties, although these conditions may co-occur). Children who seem to have more difficulties with language than in other areas of learning and development can be described as having language impairment (also known as specific language impairment, or language disorder). These children may also develop communication skills in a different way to other children e.g. having difficulties producing grammatically correct sentences despite having a good vocabulary.
Selective mutism is a condition where children can talk comfortably in some situations (such as in the home) but not others (such as playgroup, preschool or school). It is a form of anxiety disorder and is a psychological problem related to fear of others hearing them speak. It is not due to shyness or stubbornness.
Social Communication Difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
Children and young people with social communication difficulties struggle to communicate with other people, which can affect all aspects of their academic and social lives. They may need help to communicate using a variety of different methods, such as pictures, signing, and/or spoken language. We can help support children’s social skills in a range of areas, such as understanding and following common social ‘rules’ (e.g. how to take turns in a game, or answer a question in the classroom), developing understanding of emotions, facial expressions and body language, and working and socialising with others. Some children with social communication difficulties will have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Stammering (or stuttering) is a complex difficulty that can vary at different ages, in different situations and for different children. It is relatively common for children under the age of five years old to go through a short phase of stammering, which is often more noticeable when they are under some pressure to communicate. However, it is less likely that older children who stammer are going through a phase. There is good evidence that early intervention is beneficial for children who stammer and referral is advised if a child has stammered for more than a couple of months, or if the child or parents are very concerned.
Voice refers to the way we produce sounds for talking using our lungs and vocal cords (or vocal folds). We can provide advice to help children and young people look after their voices. Disorders of the voice involve problems with volume and quality.
Our Communication Carousel contains information about children's communication skills, covering all areas of speech, language and social communication development. Here you can also find activities linked to each age and stage of communication development.
Talking Point progress checker - Click here to go to Talking Point's Progress Checker, where you can check the progress of your child's language development by answering questions about their communication skills.