Afasic - what to look out for in older children

Identifying if your older child or teenager needs support
The key points below are organised into four areas of development: understanding, vocabulary, putting words together and telling stories, and interacting with others. The key points take account of age, the education context and a child’s or teenager’s developing ability to understand, talk and interact with others in a more mature way.

Young people in school or college see many different teachers so it can be easy for those experiencing difficulties to slip through the net. However it is important that communication needs are identified. If the descriptions below fit your child, they could indicate that he/she needs support with their listening, understanding and/or talking.

If you are concerned that your child’s communication is not where it should be and is impacting on their interaction and/or learning, please talk to your GP, your child’s year tutor or the school SENCO or speak to a qualified speech and language therapist.

What to watch out for:

BY 11 YEARS OLD
Understanding

  • Looks surprised and uses ways to distract or avoids answering when asked a question
  • Watches others carefully to know what to do
  • Says what you’re saying under their breath or quietly to themselves

Vocabulary

  • Doesn’t understand that words may have more than one meaning
  • Can’t explain what words mean
  • Difficulty learning and remembering subject-specific vocabulary

Putting words together and telling stories

  • Starts to explain something then gives up
  • Talks in very short sentences
  • Can’t explain the rules of a game

Interacting with others

  • Doesn’t understand jokes with double meanings
  • Doesn’t adapt the way they talk to suit different listeners eg: friends, head teacher
  • Finds it very difficult to sort out conflicts with friends through talking

BY 13-14 YEARS OLD
Understanding

  • Difficulty understanding instructions that doesn’t follow the word order in the sentence
  • Can’t work out meanings that are not obvious
  • Always takes things literally

Vocabulary

  • Uses very simple words and doesn’t use more difficult words
  • Can’t explain the meanings of words in different school subjects

Putting words together and telling stories

  • Can’t give clear and detailed explanations of rules
  • Can’t tell a complex story
  • Doesn’t join together ideas with more complex joining words like ‘so that’, ‘even though’

Interacting with others

  • Doesn’t understand ‘street talk’
  • Doesn’t understand sarcasm
  • Finds it hard to keep a topic of conversation going
  • Isn’t confident or clear about the different styles of talking with friends and in the classroom

BY 18 YEARS OLD
Understanding

  • Finds it difficult to follow complex instructions
  • Isn’t aware of when they don’t understand what they hear and read and why
  • Finds it difficult to ask for help in a specific way when they don’t understand what is heard or read
  • Doesn’t pick out themes in discussions and meanings that are not so obvious

Vocabulary

  • Uses simple words and doesn’t understand or use difficult words to describe eg: exhausted, meandered, incessant
  • Needs others to explain the words that are used in the classroom and in exams eg: evaluate, compile
  • Doesn’t understand the more subtle differences between similar words eg: severe, considerable

Putting words together and telling stories

  • Talks using short sentences
  • Doesn’t make complex sentences with difficult joining words eg: provided that, similarly
  • Tells shorter and simpler spoken stories and if more complex, may lose the ‘thread’ of the story

Interacting with others

  • Avoids joining in with group social interactions
  • Can’t stay on one topic of conversation for a long time and/or flits between topics
  • Finds in difficult to maintain a topic in a group conversation
  • Switching between formal and informal styles of conversation is difficult
  • Finds it difficult to detect sarcasm through a situation