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What is SLCN?

Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)

The term SLCN stands for Speech, Language and Communication Needs. It is estimated that around 10% of children experience some form of SLCN. Children with SLCN have difficulties in one or more of the following areas:

  • Speech sound delays/disorders (pronunciation)
  • Comprehension difficulties (understanding of language)
  • Expressive difficulties (spoken language)
  • Social interaction skills
  • Attention and listening
  • Stammering
  • Selective Mutism

Children with diagnosed conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Hearing Impairment, Learning Difficulties, and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) account for around 3% of children with SLCN. SLCN in children without a diagnosed condition is often under-identified – one of the roles of a Speech and Language Therapist is to support schools and families to identify if a child may have a  communication need.

Take a look at our quick questions below:

Communication Needs

Click on each category to find out more

Attention and Listening

  • Does the child move quickly from one activity to the next?
  • Do they have difficulty sitting still?
  • Do they struggle to engage in adult-led activities?
  • Do they 'drift off' or get distracted easily?

Speech sounds/ pronunciation

  • Does the child substitute certain sounds in words for other sounds?
  • Do they have difficulty making themselves understood?
  • Do they become frustrated when others don’t understand them?


  • Does the child have difficulty following instructions?
  • Can they read but struggle to understand the story?
  • Do they struggle to answer questions?

Spoken language

  • Does the child have difficulty getting their message across clearly?
  • Are their sentences short or jumbled up?
  • Are they missing the vocabulary they need to say what they want to say?

Social Communication

  • Does the child get anxious and upset when things change?
  • Do they struggle to take turns and form friendships?
  • Do they have difficulty keeping a conversation going and knowing the appropriate things to say?


Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to some common questions