How to Encourage Speech, Language and Communication in Young Children

As we know, speech, language and communication skills are vital for children’s general development. The ability to speak clearly, process sounds, understand others and express themselves are all basic building blocks for a child’s later development. In this blog, we will delve into the definitions of these key skills, identify what speech, language and communication disorders may look like and offer suggestions to support your little one’s development in these areas.


  • Speech: refers to the expression of thoughts through sounds and spoken words
  • Language: refers to talking using words and sentences with appropriate grammar
  • Communication: refers to the sending and receiving of information in both verbal and non-verbal instances.

Developmental stages of Speech, Language and Communication

Birth onwardsMake eye contact
Mimic facial expressions
Repeating or independently making noises
18 monthsBe able to say around 20 words
Understand simple words
Point to certain objects when asked
2 yearsUse around 50 single words
Start putting short sentences of 2/3 words together
Understand around 200-500 words
Ask simple questions
3 yearsUse up to 300 words
Assemble 4-5 word sentences
Understand simple questions
5 yearsUse speech that is understandable by others
Learn and use new words
Be able to make most speech sounds
Use language to express wants and needs
Be starting to write
Take turns in conversation

Identifying Developmental Delays and Possible Disorders

Don’t forget! Each child will develop at their own pace but some signs could indicate a delay in development. Some of these indicators might include the following:

  • Not responding to loud sounds
  • Silent or making unusual noises
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lack of interest or curiosity in exploring items around them
  • No interest in books or pictures
  • Unable to point or gesture to make their needs known

(Please remember: this is not a definitive list and if you have any concerns about your child’s development then you should refer to your GP or a specialist)

Key Points to Consider

Prepare your child

  • Start by using your child’s name before speaking. This will work to grab their attention and help them to prepare to process the next thing you say
  • Try to specify whether you are asking a question or making a statement

Consider your own speech

  • Firstly, take your time! This can be if simply chatting or telling a story, think – is it engaging if a story is read quickly? What impact might this have on your child?
  • It may be obvious but make sure your own speech is clear. Not only does this help your little ones to process but it provides them with good practice to mimic themselves
  • Be careful when repeating yourself! It is often a habit when repeating speech to change the wording we use. Doing this, even slightly, means that children will need to restart the process of decoding and reprocessing – instead, give them a little more time to digest the words used or repeat the exact same sentence again.

Build confidence

  • Making children aware of their disorder/speech difficulties can often make them self-conscious so bear this in mind when communicating
  • Consider the environment – children may struggle to speak with new people around so try and make them feel safe. Building a sensory den can make even the shyest of speakers feel more confident
  • Practice! Help to build your little ones’ self-esteem slowly but surely by practising speech around different people and in new environments as they grow in confidence

Consider non-verbal communication and prompts

  • Incorporating non-verbal movements and signals alongside your speech can help your little ones to process quicker and understand what it is you are trying to communicate
  • Use relatable objects of reference whether this be a picture or the real thing – for example don’t just ask a child to put their shoes on – show them their shoes and ask them to put them on.

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