SLT Tips

Literacy and Communication Needs

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’

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Autism and Communication needs

Autism – what is it?

ASD or Autistic Spectrum Disorder is just that, it’s a spectrum. So no 2 people with ASD present the same way and so giving it a definition in one sentence is impossible. The NAS describes it as ‘a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them’. As a SLT we often call the difficulties Social Communication Difficulties and is a sense these mean the same thing. Most people with ASD have trouble interacting with those around them and in making sense of the world at large.

Sometimes Autism is accompanied by a learning disability, mental health difficulties or other conditions. Where there are additional needs these children/adults need extra support but all children with ASD can learn and make progress.

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Speech Sounds/Phonology

Speech Sounds are also referred to as Phonology.


This tends to be the area that most people are familiar with, we all know the child that says their sounds incorrectly. It’s very typical in young children as they learn to talk and people often think it’s cute until they start to get older and they still can’t understand what the child is saying and frustrations begin to emerge on either side as the message is not being conveyed clearly.

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Expressive Language/Talking

When people think about communication they generally think about spoken language. As we can see from the building blocks this is one of the last areas to develop when children are learning to communicate. Expressive language is a broad term that covers all form how a person communicates their wants and needs, verbal and nonverbal communication skills and how an individual uses language. Expressive language skills include: facial expressions, gestures, intentionality, vocabulary, semantics (word/sentence meaning), morphology, and syntax (grammar rules).

Expressive language is important because it enables children to be able to express their wants and needs, thoughts and ideas, argue a point of view, develop their use of language in writing and engage in successful interactions with others.

Fishing game with pictures underneath to develop sentence construction.

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Understanding/ Comprehension

Posting games are a great way to work on a child’s auditory memory and comprehension skills

As Speech and Language Therapists we often refer to comprehension, all we mean by that is what the child understands of what is being said to them but also visual cues in their environment, social interactions and non verbal communication.


There is a difference between listening and understanding and children often get told they are not listening when perhaps they haven’t understood what is being said to them. This can then be frustrating for both sides.

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Play is a really important element of learning to communicate. Through it we learn social skills, vocabulary, turn taking, sequencing, cause & effect and anticipation. As children grow and mature, their play skills also change, allowing for the development of new skills that are more varied and complex. There is variability in play development and these stages often overlap. When playing with your child it is important to get down to their level to ensure they can see their face and you can see any non verbal communication interactions.

Singing songs is an easy way to develop language through play – how many of these songs do you know?

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Attention and Listening

Attention and listening is the basis of all communication development. If you can’t focus on someone else you will never notice their facial expressions or hear their intonation patterns or even watch how their mouth moves to make different sounds.

As Speech and Language Therapists we talk a lot about attention and listening but what are they and what do we mean?

pop up from katy king speech therapy reigate
The use of pop up toys develops anticipation and focus

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