Skip to main content

Speech, Language & Communication Needs

What are Speech, Language & Communication needs?

"Speech, language and communication underpin everything we do - making our needs known, expressing our likes and dislikes, interacting with others and building relationships. We often take these skills for granted, but many children struggle to communicate". (I CAN, 2013)

All young people are still developing their communication skills. Communication is a complex skill and there are lots of ways that Scout Leaders can support young people to develop effective communication skills. It’s highly likely there is someone in your Scout Group with a speech, language and communication need.

The term speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) describes difficulties across one or many aspects of communication. This may include:

  • Difficulties producing speech sounds accurately

  • Stammering

  • Voice problems, such as hoarseness and loss of voice

  • Difficulties understanding language e.g. they may have difficulties making sense of what people say, understanding long or complex sentences, difficulties answering questions or they may take language literally

  • Difficulties using language (words and sentences)

  • Difficulties interacting with others. For example, difficulties understanding the non-verbal rules of communication such as eye contact and body language, using language in different ways to question, clarify or describe things or making and maintaining friendships

  • You may also see difficulties with reading and writing

SLCN may occur as a main / primary difficulty or may also be associated with another condition, such as being on the Autism Spectrum, having a hearing impairment, dyspraxia, dyslexia, or a learning disability. Communication difficulties are also common in young people who have experienced adverse childhood experiences or trauma.

Difficulties with understanding and/or using language with no underlying cause or condition is known as ‘Developmental Language Disorder’. Learn more about the disorder.

Some children may also have differences in their communication which can be perceived as difficulties due to the impact on relationships or behaviour. Difficulties in communication can impact on a person's behaviour, confidence, learning and mental health.

Many communication needs can be difficult to spot, hidden or subtle, though the impact can be significant and these needs need to be taken into account when planning a Scout programme.

All young people have a valuable contribution to make and can be encouraged to communicate. Some young people with SLCN may need a little extra support to communicate verbally, whereas some may use other means to help them communicate e.g. signs, symbols.