This is an area of great debate in the SLT profession as to whether it is our role to support with literacy difficulties in our clients. In schools Literacy and Phonic skills often go together and as Speech and Language Therapists we support children with phonological difficulties (speech sound errors) and those with language difficulties affecting their ability to construct spoken sentences. So what is the difference between the written and spoken language?


Let us define the terms Literacy and Communication to better help us understand how they both interlink and are separate.


Literacy – ‘the ability to read and write’

Communication –the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium’

There are many different forms of communication available to us these days from talking face to face, email, texts, phone calls. In order to communicate effectively via these written forms we need to have a good level of literacy skills – even with ‘text speak’ (LOL, ROFL, BRB,).


Areas children may need support with in Literacy development

  • Phonology – Speech sounds
  • Grammar – the whole system and structure of a language
  • Syntax – the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences
  • Semantics – the meaning of a word, phrase, or text.
  • Pragmatics – he branch of linguistics dealing with language in use and the contexts in which it is used
  • Reading comprehension –


Area’s Speech and Language Therapists are skilled to support children

  • Phonology
  • Syntax –
  • Semantics
  • Pragmatics
  • Idioms – a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light )
  • Comprehension


Although as SLT’s we don’t directly work on literacy we do support many of the skills needed to develop literacy skills.


What can you do at home?



  • Playing games from an early age around speech sounds not only helps them to develop their own spoken phonology skills but also helps to develop literacy skills and auditory skills. You can do this through a variety of methods
  • Specific shop brought games around sounds – orchard toys have a wide range of different toys
  • When reading stories or looking through books ask them to find words or pictures on the page beginning with certain sounds
  • Play I spy games when out and about or in the car. Supermarkets are a great place to play this and can also keep them motivated whilst doing the weekly food shop
  • Clapping out syllables in words helps children to hear all the sounds in longer words.


  • Asking your child questions about what they have read or heard will help to develop their inferencing skills and comprehension skills.
  • If your child has a speech and language delay or takes language very literally, be careful of your use of idioms as this can cause confusion and occasionally upset at the confusion over what is being said.