Speech and Communication


Speech, communication, and language are all linked together. When we speak, we are using all three to express ourselves clearly and to understand others. However when children have difficulty expressing themselves, their underlying difficulties may relate to all three areas or just speech and communication (having difficulties with pronunciation and making specific letter sounds, saying words, and knowing how words build to make grammatically correct sentences) or language (having difficulties with understanding speech) alone. Often Speech and Language therapists will assess the exact nature of a child’s difficulties and then recommend that they either follow a Speech and Communication pathway of support or a Language support pathway.

Speech and Language Development Overview

Activities for both Speech and Language development

Speech clarity and pronunciation

A child’s speech development relies on being able to say and pronounce each individual letter sound correctly. As they progress, children will blend these individual sounds together to make different letter sounds, and then combine sounds to make words.

A child’s ability to pronounce letters correctly can be affected by many different things. Sometimes their ability to physically move their tongue and mouth to form the correct shapes for each sound, or difficulties with hearing (affecting how a child thinks a letter sounds and how their own speech sounds) can affect their speech. However it can also be that they simply need a little help to master the sounds with practice.

Speech sounds video

Blending sounds video

Alternative ways to support communication

When a child’s speech is unclear, it can be difficult for others to follow what they are saying or asking, and this in turn can lead to frustration for the child. However, having a symbol, object or sign that they can use alongside their speech, can make their ideas and needs much clearer to others, and in turn help them feel they are being understood. As a child’s speech develops, the need for these visual forms of communication may gradually lessen or disappear altogether, or they may become beneficial to a child in a different way, for example helping children understand a sequence or set of instructions.

Using Visual Aids

Using a picture or a real object relating to something being spoken about, is a great way to give children an additional thing to use to make sense of what is being said. It will also give adults something to reinforce and clarify what a child is trying to say. When a child is younger, using the real objects themselves or a 3D representation (for example a toy car to represent going in a real car) make linking to a word or idea very clear. However, as they become older and more able to link words, ideas and concepts to more abstract pictures, photos, drawing and symbols can be used.

Visual Support video

PECS - Picture Exchange Communication System

The use of PECS may be recommended for a child by Speech and Language Therapists or other Specialist Teachers following assessments of a child’s needs.

PECS uses a range of simple line drawings on cards to represent key words, including actions, objects and feelings, to help children communicate. The cards can be used by children to make what they are wanting to say clear to others, and by the people they are communicating with, to make the ideas in their speech and language easier to understand.


The use of Makaton will be recommended for a child by Speech and Language Therapists or other Specialist Teachers following assessments of a child’s needs.

Makaton uses symbols and signs to reinforce speech, and is often thought of as a simple form of sign language. Children and adults working with them will gradually learn the symbols and signs associated with specific words, including actions, objects and feelings, so that a child is able to express themselves and be understood by others. Speech is always used alongside Makaton signing to help children link the sign and the spoken word and to encourage children to attempt pronounce the word correctly.

An Introduction to Makaton Signs video

Singing Hands Makaton You Tube Channel - for learning signs, signing songs and stories.

Something Special cBeebies Website - Makaton signing programmes and games for young children with Mr Tumble

Singing with Signing on the SingUp Website