Speech Language and Communication Needs

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Introduction

Communication is a two way process which allows us to express our thoughts and feelings to others, while allowing us in turn to understand what others are trying to convey to us. Communication involves speech and language (verbal) as well as facial expression, gesture and body language (non-verbal). Communication is an essential life skill for children and young people and it underpins their social, emotional and educational development. (Bercow 2008)

To communicate effectively we must understand and ‘apply’ the ‘rules’ of the structure used in language and be able to vocalise this through speech. We must also hear and understand the speech of others through our ability to listen and to interpret body language and facial expression.

Developing and building upon these skills will enable children and young people to interact and relate to others and the world around them. However, if a child or young person has a difficulty in any of these areas - Speech, Language or Communication - then this need must be addressed otherwise it may impact on their behavioural, emotional and social development. “In general, children with developmental language difficulties are at greater risk than typically developing children of having behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.” (Better Communication Research Programme 2010)

Therefore this presentation seeks to highlight the correlation between the Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) of children and young people and how it has a bearing on their behavioural, emotional and social development as well.

SECTION TWO

Children and young people’s behaviour can be used as a way of communicating to others and the world around them. Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD) can manifest themselves in a range of ways. Some of these are characterised by the following:

- Physical/ Verbal aggression
- Anxiety/ Depression
- Withdrawn/ Isolated
- Hyperactive/ Lacking concentration
- Phobias/ Self-harm
- Low self-esteem

Children and young people with BESD may act unpredictably in a variety of social, personal or physical settings. These behaviours often times seek to communicate how a child or young person is feeling, although it is often the case that the behaviour is seen as the difficulty rather than the symptom of underlying language difficulty. (Communication Trust 2008)

Furthermore, children with SLCN are more likely to have social and emotional difficulties. There is a link between SLCN and BESD (Lindsey,G. & Dockrell, J. 2000). Studies have indicated that behavioural problems account for three quarters of children and young people who had significant language difficulties as well (Ripley, K. & Yull, N. 2005). It is also evident that children learn about emotions through play and interact through language. This in turn enables children to develop skills in managing their behaviour and emotions effectively. However, a child with SLCN may find these scenarios or situations challenging.

Therefore a child with language/ communication difficulties in a school may display limited eye contact, have difficulty initiating conversation or staying on the topic of conversation, staying on task and have problems using language to negotiate or argue their point of view with their peers. Consequently, this will inhibit their ability to develop the skills needed to manage their behaviour and emotions properly.

Likewise it can result in social isolation from their peers if they are unable to engage in understanding the ‘rules’ of appropriate behaviours in social situations as a result of their inability to understand fully facial gestures or body language.

Evidently, BESD has a bearing on the SLCN’s of children and young people. It hinders the learning of new skills appropriate to a child’s stage of development as well as impacting on their capacity to form satisfying relationships....
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