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  • Writer's pictureBeth Morrant

7 SLCN things to look out for

If you’re thinking, “what things should I be looking out for” with regards to speech & language in your school or setting, here’s a little list of things for you to bear in mind. They follow 7 different areas of speech, language & communication.


1. Attention & listening

You’ll pretty easily be able to spot the child who struggles to sit and listen, is super fidgety and easily distractible, but also have a look out for the children who are quiet, seem a little bit in their own world and don’t appear to have heard what you’ve said. Their inattentiveness might be because they have a hyperactive mind and are focusing on their thoughts instead (this is one of my tips as a mum of a child with ADHD).


2. Comprehension & understanding

Look out for children who have difficulties with following spoken instructions and who might need extra processing time. During reading tasks, being able to recall what they have just read, or being able to summarise the key points is a big indicator of SLCN. Children with comprehension difficulties can also struggle with concept words like the ones we see in maths: ‘half’, ‘greater than’, ‘denominator’.


3. Memory & processing

There’s likely to be a child in your new class who doesn’t seem to remember the whole instruction you’ve just given your group and who will follow/copy their peers instead. Look out for the child who only follows part of your instruction, usually the last bit. Remember to break down your spoken instructions and comments into smaller chunks, with lots of space between your spoken phrases to allow for the child to process what you’ve said. This does feel a bit weird at first, for me it fees a little robotic, but it’s a super effective strategy to support your child(ren) and not overload them.


4. Expressive language & vocabulary

Listen out for children who use short sentences, often with lots of filler words or sounds like “um” “er”, “thingy”, “stuff”. Or you might have a child in your class or new cohort who doesn’t talk very much at all and may even avoid talking to you. If there’s a child who is unable to hold a conversation with you or with their peers, bear them in mind for a little extra investigation into their speech, language & communication skills.


5. Speech Sounds

If you’re in early years or key stage 1 (although it’s not uncommon for children in older year groups too in more recent years) there’ll be at least one or two children with unclear speech. Listen out for any sound swaps like replacing a S sound with a D (so sock is said as “dock”) or replacing a K sound with a T or D (so cat becomes “tat” or “dat”).

Make a note of these children and see if they have any paperwork in their file on their speech sounds already (if not check out the speech sounds resources here in The Speech & Language Garden, start with the freebie on this page).


6. Play & social skills

Pay attention to the children who are playing on their own. Sometimes play, conversations and discussions can move too fast for children with SLCN and they can end up on their own at break and lunch times.

For some children, poor behaviour can be a symptom of underlying speech, language & communication needs or sensory processing difficulties. Bear this in mind when you’re exploring the situation that happened before any episodes of poor behaviour- was the room noisy? Were there too many people talking/shouting/asking questions? Did something happen earlier in the day that the child is still trying to process?


7. Stammering

You may have a child in your class who has a stammer, their talking seems a bit bumpy, they repeat single sounds syllables, words or phrases, usually at the beginning of a sentence. Check out the free resources on my website for a list of strategies that you can use to support any children (or adult) you work with who has a stammer.



There's a range of resources in the Speech & Language Garden for you to help your children if they have any of the above difficulties.

🌻 Download my SLCN Checklist for a handy tick sheet to help you identify the above difficulties and areas of need.



🌳 Spend a couple of hours with me on one of my courses and get all of the solutions, strategies and activities you need, the SLCN Impact Pack is the best place to start.


Beth Morrant

Highly Specialist Speech & Language Therapist MSc BA CertMRCSLT MASLTIPThe Speech and Language Garden


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