Recognising difficulties

Over 50,000 children and young people in Scotland have difficulties with speech and language. That's an average of 2/3 children in every classroom!

There are so many ways in which children's speech can go wrong. Some children have difficulties with the muscles that control speech. Others can't understand how a conversation works or the meaning of a sentence. And some children can't understand or use language at all.

With early intervention and targeted support, many children overcome their difficulties and go on to be confident communicators and good learners. For others, these difficulties can be a bit more severe and long term, affecting them for the rest of their lives.

mother and child reading

Is my child is showing signs?

These types of difficulties are not always obvious and actually, they can be termed as a "hidden disability". Here's what to look out for if you suspect that your child might need extra support to develop their speech, language or communication skills.

Age 0-2

Children in their early years may need extra help if they are not:

  • responding to noises by 9 months
  • pointing to things by 12 months
  • trying to gain your attention by 12 months. This could be through noises, eye contact, facial expressions or reaching.
  • babbling by 12 – 15 months
  • saying his/her first words by 18 months
  • responding well to language, such as not following simple instructions like ‘kick the ball’, by 18 months
  • saying 25 recognisable words by 24 months


Age 2-3

Children in this age group may have SLCN if they are:

  • 2 years or more and cannot say any words
  • 3 years or more and only parents or close family can understand what they say
  • not listening or responding
  • making little or no eye contact
  • having difficulty focusing their attention


Age 3+

Some speech, language or communication impairments may not be obvious until children are 3 years or older. Children may have difficulty if they:

  • find it hard to produce many sounds so that people cannot understand what they say
  • muddle their speech or use words in the wrong order
  • struggle to learn new words
  • miss out words in a sentence or find it hard to link words together
  • forget instruction or conversation almost as soon as they are said
  • find it difficult to pay attention to instructions or conversation
  • make inappropriate comments or answers
  • do not understand how to take turns in conversation


Age 5 and beyond

Older children with speech or language impairments may:

  • jump inappropriately from one topic to another in conversation
  • talk about one subject and find it difficult to switch to others
  • find it hard to learn to read
  • struggle to understand abstract ideas such as time or emotions
  • misinterpret language which isn’t literal- for example “pull your socks up”


I think my child needs help

If you think your child needs help, you’re probably right. You’re the expert. You know your child better than anyone else. Don’t delay- seek help! Speak to your health visitor or GP and don’t be fobbed off by excuses.

Appointments for professional services can often take a long time but SLCo is here to bridge the gap. We're here to offer information and guidance for all aspects of you and your child’s individual needs. Delays in seeking advice or help can have a significant and detrimental effect on your child’s health and education.

Life chances start at birth.  It is clear that waiting until a child is seven or eleven to start intervention is often already too late. The older the child, the harder it is for the child to catch up, socially, emotionally and academically. Research shows that brain development is at its most rapid before a child reaches the age of two.


Need some advice?

If you have any questions or you'd just like to talk to someone about your child's speech, language or communication needs, please get in touch via our Contact page.