Children begin to develop the skills they need for talking, listening and understanding from before birth! As a parent, you make a difference to your child’s communication development, even before they start to talk.
Your baby will have regular health and development reviews during their early years, usually carried out by a Health Visitor. You can discuss your child’s development with your Health Visitor, who will help you support your child and get the support you need.
Help and support
If you need advice or would like to speak to someone who understands: Contact our Helpline >>
If you are worried about your child’s talking, listening or understanding, it is important to share your concerns to find out if there is a problem and if so how you can access the right help as soon as possible.
1. Gather information
It is helpful to prepare yourself to describe your child’s listening, understanding, talking and communicating. This will help you to clearly explain your concerns to others.
a) Make some notes
Makes some notes about what you want others to know about your child. Include information that you think is important about your child’s birth, early experiences and school as appropriate. Include what your child is good at and what he/she finds difficult.
It helps to know how talking develops and even though children develop at different rates, there are key milestones to look out for. What range of skills should you be expecting at this stage of your baby/child’s development? You can check this below:
Speech and Language Development Milestones - Early Years (242.8 KiB, 16,595 hits)
Each child is different. For some children their difficulties with listening, understanding and talking are obvious. For other children, their difficulties with talking are hidden behind difficulties with attention, following instructions or getting on with others.
Think about examples of when communicating together works well and when it is difficult. Think about how any difficulties affect everyday life.
b) Ask someone else who knows your child well
Ask someone who also spends time with your child, if they have noticed the same things as you and if they can give you any examples of when communication felt difficult.
c) Write down or record examples
Note down examples of how your child communicates, to help add real life examples.
- If your child is talking, write down some of the words that your child says. If your child is not talking, write down how you think your child expresses what they need, want or feel.
- If you have a smartphone, you could also record a short video or audio example of your child talking/communicating, perhaps while they are playing or looking at a book with you. This can also help you to keep track of any progress.
2. Share your concerns with a professional
Make an appointment with someone who can help like your Health Visitor, your GP, nursery or childcare staff, your child’s teacher or school nurse. Read more about who can help.
Share your concerns in as much detail as possible. Take your time and use key points from the information that you have gathered and recorded to help you explain your concerns. Read more about questions to ask professionals.
3. Keep a record
In our busy lives it can be easy to lose track of what to follow up or forget advice that seemed so easy to remember at the time!
Parents tell us that it is helpful to keep a brief record of meetings that they have with their health visitor and other professionals. Keeping a record makes it easier to follow up on advice and monitor your child’s progress.
Keep it simple!
- A date, who you spoke to, any concerns/progress and any advice or actions agreed.
Keep it easy to find!
- Keep a record by writing in eg: your baby’s red book, your diary or a notebook, typing notes on your phone, or as a voice memo eg: on your phone.
- Some parents, who have lots of meetings about their child, get organised by putting paperwork (like letters and reports) into a file.
4. Referral to a speech and language therapist
If your child does need help with listening, understanding and talking, its important to find out if there is a problem, the extent of any needs and what can be done to help.
Through discussing your concerns you may conclude that further advice is needed and it would be appropriate to refer your child for an assessment by a qualified speech and language therapist.
Speech and language therapists are able to assess your child’s particular patterns of difficulty, including the impact of any communication difficulties and provide advice and if required, intervention, to match your child’s needs. Find out more about the role of a speech and language therapist.
A professional, for example, your Health Visitor, your GP or your child’s teacher, can refer your child for assessment by a speech and language therapist.
However you don’t need to wait for someone else to refer your child –you can refer yourself by phoning your local speech and language therapy department and asking about referral. You can usually find the contact details through your local NHS health clinic.