Pupils with more significant speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) needs are looked at in the second e-bulletin on the subject from Linda Evans, including how SENCOs can plan effective interventionspdf-7546080

SENCO Week – Helpsheet 18.pdf

The needs of pupils with SLCN are often widespread and can include any or all of the following areas.

  • expressive language: speech production and language
  • receptive language: listening, understanding, remembering
  • social skills: what to say and when and how to say it
  • coordination: body skills and movement, manipulative skills and movement, planning and organisation sensory issues: affecting sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell and in addition balance and body awareness
  • behaviour: how to behave acceptably in a range of social and more formal settings

Any individual child with SLCN will have his or her own mix of difficulties and therefore careful assessment is important to identify individual strengths and needs. Assessment should include the views and observations of parents, teachers and other staff at school; speech and language therapists (SLTs), and any other professionals involved with the child such as educational psychologists and (if appropriate) pupils themselves. As more and more children begin school with poor language skills (see Sue Palmer’s book Toxic Childhood), it’s important to tune in quickly to individual needs as a basis for planning learning opportunities and delivering support. This is not to say however, that KS2 and KS3 settings are ‘off the hook’; there are many pupils in these phases who need continuing support – and indeed a significant number whose SLCN have not been accurately identified. (See Working with Secondary Pupils with Language Difficulties by Mandy Brent et al: David Fulton Publishers.)

Framework for assessment

Most people find it helpful to use a framework for their assessment and there is a range to choose from, most using focused observation with a range of diagnostic tasks. Amongst those available are:

  • The Joint Professional Development Framework – ICAN
  • AFASIC checklists (LDA)
  • Living Language – Ann Locke
  • Diagnostic Assessment in Supporting Children with SLI and Associated Difficulties – Jill McMinn (Continuum)

Having a structure for an assessment is useful because otherwise it’s all too easy to focus on one aspect of a pupil’s SLCN which may be presented as the dominant difficulty at the time, and to miss any more subtle, underlying difficulties also impacting his or her learning. Once a broad assessment has been carried out, you can prioritise support, perhaps leaving some of the more subtle difficulties until later, but keeping them in mind all the time. You may be lucky enough to have a speech and language therapist involved in planning and delivering a programme of intervention for a child with significant difficulties, but more often, a teacher or experienced HLTA or the SENCO will be in this role. Regardless of whoever is steering or implementing the programme, it’s important to reflect the work back in the classroom and to involve the class teacher as much as possible. By gradually increasing the skill level of mainstream practitioners in this respect, you will be improving provision for children with all sorts of difficulties.


Circle time activities: creating a secure and supportive environment where children with SLCN can develop speaking, listening and social skills (See Helpsheet 18).

Developing phonological awareness: delayed development of these skills can manifest itself in speech development difficulties and later on in the development of literacy skills, so addressing this as early as possible is essential.

Providing children and young people with strategies to ask for help or clarification: enabling children and young people to monitor their own comprehension and then ask for help if required is an important skill.

Social skills groups: this area often needs a clearer targeted focus for children and young people with SLCN.

Study skills may need particular attention, particularly for older students:
using approaches like brainstorming and mind mapping can help develop many underlying skills – particularly in planning and organising language.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2009

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.