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Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)

Communication is key to many of the things we want for ourselves and our children, it underpins everything we do and helps us live life to the full. Communication is fundamental to a child’s development. Children need to be able to understand and be understood. Communication is the foundation of relationships and is essential for learning, play and social interaction.

Some children and young people find it difficult to listen, understand and communicate with others and may need support to develop the skills involved. The umbrella term most commonly used to describe these difficulties is Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).

Did you know?

  • in the UK, over 1 million children and young people, 2 or 3 in every classroom have some form of long term and persistent speech, language and communication difficulty
  • In areas of poverty, over 50% of children are starting school with delayed communication skills. Their speech may be unclear, vocabulary is smaller, sentences are shorter and they are able to understand only simple instructions.

Every child or young person with communication difficulties will be different. Their needs depend on different factors, including:

  • which areas of speech, language and communication they struggle with
  • how severely these areas are affected
  • what skills and strengths they have
  • how they need to use their skills
  • their level of confidence and self-esteem.

The 0-16 years Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) model of support in Luton is a whole system approach called ‘Talking Takes Off’. It promotes a graduated response based on a continuum of universal (all children), targeted (some children) and specialist (few children) support, delivered by the wider and specialist workforce working together.

Many children can catch up with the right support. Some will need the specialist support of local Speech and Language Therapy services, however often children can be supported through our universal and targeted services to meet their potential.

Communicating & playing with your child with additional needs

A video for parents and carers who want to support their child's play and communication skills.

The Talking Takes Off parents guide for 0-5 year olds shows the options available to families concerned about their young child’s communication skills at each level of support. If you have any concerns about your preschool child, speak to their preschool, your health visitor/nursery nurse or access support using the Talking Takes Off pathway document

The local pathway for school aged children shows the options available to families concerned about their school aged child’s communication skills at each level of support. If you have concerns about your school aged child, please talk to the school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) or Specialist teacher. They can offer you advice and make a referral to the Speech, Language and Communication Needs Service (SENS) or the Speech and Language Therapy Service.


View related services


Speech and Language Therapy Service

Telephone: 0300 555 0606



Special Educational Needs Service (SENS)

Futures House, The Moakes, Marsh Farm, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU3 3QB

Tel: 01582 548151


Support and Training for Professionals

There is a range of local training available to professionals to support children’s communication skills. For further information, visit the Speech and Language Therapy website and the Talking Takes Off website

We also have locally designed screening toolkits for use by professionals that can be used to identify areas of need and plan and implement appropriate support.  You can find the full toolkits and further details here:

Please watch the videos below for more information.

Early Years Communication and Language toolkit


School Aged toolkit