Speech, language and communication needs

Children develop their speech and language skills at their own pace. The important thing is to ensure that your child has enough interaction with other children and plenty of opportunities to play; as children learn from playing and listening to others. There are also activities you can do at home with your child to ensure they have the best chance of developing their communication skills - such as playing, talking and reading with them every day.

Parents of children who have more than one language should continue to speak to their child in the language they are most at ease with.

Parents of children who do not speak English should continue to use their home language with their children and not English.

Look at the links on the side for guides and activities that maybe helpful.

Delayed development of speech, language, and social and communication skills may be symptoms of a disability or special need. However, some children are naturally ‘late talkers’ and may catch up with other children their age soon enough.

In the first five years of life, speech, language and communication skills develop quickly. If your child is having difficulty with these skills, it is important that they get help as soon as possible.

You can discuss any concerns you have with your Health Visitor, childcare provider e.g. childminder, nursery or your child’s school. They can give you ideas on how to support your child’s speech, language and communication.  They can also include your child in a speech therapy group if there is one taking place at the nursery or school, or offer advice on possible training courses you can go on to help your child.

Speech and language therapy in Hounslow is an open referral service so anyone with concerns can refer -  find out more about the service here.

Speech and Language Therapists work with children who have speech and language or communication difficulties

Speech and language therapy aims to:

  • Prevent speech, language and communication difficulties from arising.
  • Empower parents and practitioners to know how best to help their child’s communication develop.
  • Support children with speech, language or communication needs to enable them to reach their full potential. 

What to expect when

What to expect when

Children develop their speech, language and communication skills at different ages and stages. However, the pattern of typical development is helpful in giving us a guide to the skills your child is likely to have at various ages.

0-1 year 

By one year, your baby will start to pay attention to the strongest stimuli, e.g. sound and activity in their environment. 

They will still be easily distracted. 

They may play by exploring toys and objects near to them, often putting them in their mouths. They understand some words, including their name. 

They are beginning to be interactive and they may show this by smiling at you, waving their arms and legs around, pointing and taking turns with you to make babbling noises.

1-2 years 

Between one and two years of age, children start to pay attention for slightly longer periods. However, they are usually only focused on things that they like or that interest them. 

Children begin to learn lots more words and by two years old they can understand two word phrases. They will also be using many single words, and are starting to put two words together when talking (e.g. ‘more juice’). 

They are interested in toys now and may engage in pretend play, e.g. pretending to feed a doll.

2-3 years

Between two and three years of age, children are able to move their attention between two situations (e.g. whilst playing, they may stop and look at you if you call them). 

They start understanding action words, using longer sentences (e.g. 3 key words) and simple questions. They seem chatty and can speak in short sentences. 

At this age children are interested in those around them and may watch others playing or play alongside them. Their own play is starting to become more imaginative.

3-4 years

At this age children are learning to pay attention to adult-led activities e.g. listening to a story. 

They can understand a lot more now, including a wider range of questions and descriptive words. They should be able to have a conversation with you and will ask lots of questions.

They are starting to play with other children and their speech is getting clearer.

4-5 years

At this age your child will start to be able to listen even when they are doing something else. Their play will be more complex now including playing games with other children and making up rules for their games. 

Children will be able to understand and answer a wider range of questions, including ‘why?’ And when they don’t understand something, they may ask for help. 

Their choice of words is more specific and meaningful and they are able to link their ideas (e.g. by saying ‘and’). They will also start to talk about events that have happened.