Support for Parents

Welcome to our new parents support site for children with speech and language difficulties.

At Speech Link Multimedia Ltd we believe that every child should have access to support for their speech, language and communication needs to help them reach their full potential.

We are a team of speech and language therapists, educators and software engineers who develop packages of assessments and interventions for schools called Speech Link and Language Link. We have put together some of our activities and games from our award-winning packages for you to use at home.

Our speech activities will help your child to hear the difference between speech sounds (sound discrimination) and to identify sounds at the beginning and ends of words (phonics). These skills are important for both talking and reading. Our language activities will help develop your child’s ability to follow instructions, understand talking and learn new words more easily.

In the coming weeks you will be able to hear our speech and language therapy podcasts about how to encourage your child’s talking at home and we will be adding more games and activities. We hope you and your child enjoy using this website.

Just for Schools:

All the materials on this site are taken from Speech Link and Language Link our support packages for speech and language in schools. If you work in a school and would like to learn more click on the links or set up a free trial for your school

Information

Speech and language skills are absolutely fundamental to our wellbeing and success in life. We use these skills constantly to communicate our wants and needs to others, to collaborate and negotiate, and to build strong bonds with other people. Language skills are also fundamental to our learning. In schools and at home, we learn new skills and acquire new knowledge by listening to others talking and reading written language. The demands on language skills only increase as children get older and progress through their education.

It’s often easy to identify children who have difficulties with unclear speech, as you will find it difficult to understand their talking, and your child may be frustrated when their speech is not understood. Language, on the other hand, can be a hidden difficulty which is harder to identify as we often can’t observe whether someone has or hasn’t understood.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech or language skills we strongly encourage you to discuss your concerns with your child’s school (their class teacher and/or SENCo) as they know your child well and will be able to talk to you about the resources and services which are available to you locally.

Parents do not cause speech and language difficulties, but you can help children to resolve difficulties and build good speech and language skills by adapting the way you communicate and by practising key skills with your children at home. We’ve put together the information, resources and activities on this website to help you work with your children at home to boost their speech and language skills, and we’ll be adding to it as we produce new content and resources for you to use at home, so keep checking back to make sure you don’t miss out!

When we are talking about language, we mean the words and sentences that we understand and use to communicate. It is one of the most important skills that we will ever learn as nearly everything we do at home, school and work requires us to communicate with our families, friends and colleagues. Children need to develop their language skills in order to understand and communicate successfully with adults and their peers, which will support them to develop and maintain relationships. Good language skills support thinking and problem-solving skills, enabling children to access learning across all lessons in school.

Developing a good understanding and use of language are critical first steps for developing speech sound skills and are the basis for learning to read and write, which underpins all learning.

Difficulties with language skills are very common for children, with up to 50% of children starting school with below average language skills. Children can have difficulties with their understanding of language, their ability to use language or both.

Understanding spoken language

If a child has difficulties understanding language they may find it difficult to understand the meaning of different words and concepts such as ‘first’ and ‘last’. This will mean that they find it difficult to make sense of what is being said to them in order to respond successfully. They may have difficulty following instructions and directions correctly, which will impact on their ability to understand what they need to do for a task or game. It can be difficult to tell if a child is having difficulty understanding as it is not something that you can easily see. Children often use strategies such as copying other children, guessing from the familiar routine or context and using gestures or non-verbal clues, such as pointing, to appear like they have understood.

Using spoken language

If a child has difficulties using spoken language they will have difficulty using words and sentences to express their thoughts and ideas successfully. They may have difficulty finding the words that they want to use or structuring their sentence correctly, with their words in the correct order. This can affect their ability to communicate with others and will transfer to their written work.

If you are concerned about your child’s language skills:

Parents do not cause children to have difficulties with their language skills, but by changing the way that you talk and listen to your child, you can make a big difference to their language development. It is important that you talk to your child’s teacher and/or the school SENCo if you are concerned. With early intervention and support, most children starting school with language difficulties can overcome their difficulties.

Here are a few ideas for developing language and encouraging talking at home.

The word ‘speech’ can sometimes be a bit ambiguous. We use the word ‘speech’ every day to refer to the general concept of somebody talking. However, when we talk, we are really drawing on lots of different skills. We use language to choose the right words and put them in the right order to construct our message, and we use speech to produce the sounds needed to make up those words so we can transmit a message from our mouths to somebody else’s ears. In speech and language therapy, what we mean by ‘speech’ is the physical production of sounds (knowing the words and the right order to put them in are language skills). The production of speech sounds is a really complex process which involves the coordination of our brain, breathing, voice box and finely controlled movements of our articulators (e.g. our lips, tongue and palate).

Speech and language therapists often say that producing clear speech sounds is ‘the icing on the cake’. We need to have a good foundation of language skills in order to have something to say before we worry about producing speech sounds clearly. For this reason, as a general rule we always recommend that a child’s language needs are identified and addressed before we start working on their production of speech sounds.

The accurate production of speech sounds is a skill which develops over time – children will take many years to learn how to produce all of the speech sounds which an adult speaker can produce. It is normal for children to make lots of errors as they develop speech skills.  In the early stages, what sound like mistakes are attempts to make the words easier to say. At first, they will only have a limited range of sounds that they can produce. As their fine motor skills and listening and monitoring skills develop, they will be able to produce a wider range of sounds and their speech will become clearer.

When your child is talking you will be able to hear if they are making speech production errors because their speech will be unclear and difficult for you to understand. Children with speech sound difficulties often feel very frustrated when other people are not able to understand their speech. Parents will usually be able to understand much more of what their child is saying than other adults can, because they spend so much more time with their child and are very attuned to their needs. For the first two years it is normal for only familiar adults to be able to understand a child’s speech. By the time children go to school their speech should, for the most part, be clear and intelligible with only occasional errors with words or sounds. Remember – if you have any concerns about your child’s speech and/or language skills you should talk to your child’s school in the first instance.

We have put together some activities which can be used with children who may have speech sound difficulties. The activities focus on listening to sounds. This is an important first step for all children’s speech sound development. Children need to be able to hear the difference between speech sounds (also called phonemes) and be able to process and manipulate the sounds in words before they will be able to use those sounds in their own speech.

These activities will also be useful for children who are learning to read and write. Children who have speech sound difficulties often struggle with processing sounds and this can put them at high risk for reading and spelling problems. Developing a child’s listening and sound processing (also called phonological awareness) skills provides a crucial foundation for developing their literacy skills.

Activities

The best way to encourage your child’s speech and language development is to do lots of talking and listening together. There is no need to have special tasks or extra time in the day to do this, it is always good to talk. This is why everyday activities like mealtimes, having a bath and even household chores, such as organising the washing, are perfect for developing your child’s speech and language skills. By using everyday activities, you can talk about events and situations that are very familiar to your child and it enables them to practice the language skills that they have already learned and to build on these skills.

Speech Activities

We have put together some games and activities for you to use with your child at home to encourage listening and speech sound skills.

To produce clear speech a child needs to be able to hear the difference between different sounds as well as be able to make individual sounds. This is called discrimination and it is one of the most important skills your child needs to master for learning to read as well as talk.

We have divided this page into two sections. In the first section you’ll find some online games for your child to play. These games are graded listening tasks.

In the second section you will find some activities for you to complete with your child to encourage good sound discrimination to help their reading and talking.

These games are to help develop your child’s ability to tell the difference between sounds and work out where sounds are in words. Both these skills are important for speaking as well as reading.

Play Game

Use these games to encourage your child to hear single sounds and identify sounds at the beginning and ends of words.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 9 years

  • Islands This game will help your child hear the difference between speech sounds
  • Feed the puppet This game will help your child hear the difference between sounds in words
  • Monster food This game will help your child hear sounds at the beginning of words
  • Shooting stars This game will help your child hear sounds at the beginning of words
  • Roll the car This game will help your child hear sounds at the beginning of words
  • Bin it! This game will help your child hear sounds at the beginning of words
  • Grand national This game will help your child hear sounds at the beginning of words
  • Kings and knights This game will help your child hear sounds at the beginning and ends of words
For more game ideas visit our online shop

Language Activities

We have put together lots of games and activities for you to use with your child at home to encourage their understanding and talking. We have divided the page into sections representing different language skills. In each section there is an explanation of why that language skill is important followed by some suggested activities.

In this section you will find activities to help develop your child’s understanding of concepts.

Many children struggle with understanding and using concept vocabulary. A concept is a word that usually describes an object or person in some way. They might describe the position of an object (e.g. in, under, behind) how it looks or feels (e.g. wet, rough) or its size (e.g. tall, small). Concepts also describe the order objects, people or actions happen in (e.g. first, before, last, after next).

They are all very important words for your child to understand so they can join in lots of different activities at school.

Try to use any new concept words as many times as possible in lots of different situations. You may need to explain the meanings of concept words as you go along.

“Put your shoes on first and then your coat”

“That means you put your shoes on” (pause while your child puts their shoes on)

“That’s right. Now put your coat on” (pause while your child puts their coat on)

“Well done. You put your shoes on first”.

Your child may need to hear instructions a few times. Remember to give them lots of encouragement – it’s sometimes hard to learn new concept words especially ones involving sequence e.g. first, last, before and after.

Use these games to help your child practise important concept words.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

  • Big Ted Little Ted This game will help your child practice instructions with first and last.
  • Hide the Spider This game is for practising position words e.g. on, in, under, behind etc.

Suitable for children aged 7 - 11 years

  • Mini Olympics This game is for practising sequence words e.g. before, after, first, last, etc.
  • Strictly robots This game is for practising sequence and position words e.g. after, below etc.

In this section you will find activities for your child to practise following instructions.

Many children struggle to follow longer more complex instructions in class, especially ones involving sequence, where you complete one part before the next part e.g. Colour you picture then write your name on the back. Throughout the school day your child will have to follow lots and lots of instructions.

You can work on instructions as you go about your day. You may need to break them down into smaller parts and give your child time to complete one part before the next.

“Finish your peas first and then you can go back outside”

“That means eat up all your peas” (pause while your child east peas)

“That’s right. Now put you can go outside”

Your child may need to hear instructions a few times. Remember to give them lots of encouragement.

Use these games to help your child practice following instructions.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

In this section you will find activities to help your child understand negatives.

Many children have difficulty understanding negatives e.g. can’t, won’t, don’t etc. While an understanding of the word ‘no’ develops quite early for most children, it takes a lot longer to understand more complex negative words. When a child doesn’t understand the negative word, they tend to ignore it and carry on following the rest of the instruction.

“Don’t leave your shoes at the bottom of the stairs” is understood to mean ‘leave your shoes at the bottom of the stairs!

The result is that they do the opposite of what you have asked them to. This is not (always) a behaviour problem.

So understanding negatives is very important.

You can work on negatives as you go about your day emphasising them.

“You can’t put your shoes on if you haven’t got your socks on!”

You may need to repeat the sentence explaining as you go or simplify it for your child.

Use these games to practise understanding negative words.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

  • Like / Don’t like This game develops understanding of ‘but not’ e.g. ‘I like peas but not carrots’
  • On holiday This game develops understanding of ‘but not’ e.g. ‘I’m going to take shorts but not my winter coat’.

In this section you will find activities to help develop your child’s understanding of pronouns e.g. he, she, they, him, her, them, me and you etc.

Many children struggle with pronouns, usually confusing them or using one pronoun for everyone. Because pronouns are tricky words they don’t tend to develop until a child is around 5 years old, although many children will be understanding and using them by then. They are particularly important for literacy development.

Try to use pronouns as many times as possible in lots of different situations.

He went out”

“Which one did he want?”

“I think he likes chocolate cake”

When your child makes a mistake, repeat their sentence using the correct words.

“Him the winner”

“Yes, he is the winner”

When reading with your child, check they understand who each pronoun is referring to. You will need to give them lots of encouragement to learn these tricky words.

Use these games to help your child practice pronouns

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

  • Bubbles This game works on understanding and use of ‘him’, ‘her’ and ‘them’
  • Hide and seek This game works on understanding and use of ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’
  • Shopping This game works on understanding and use of ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’

Verbs are complicated and take children a long time to master. They have to learn that if something has already happened, they will use a verb in a different way than if something is happening now or will happen in the future. Sometimes it is a different ending on the word, e.g. jumping – jumped, and sometimes it is a different word e.g. running – ran. Every sentence we produce has to have a verb, so they are very important words.

Try to use verb forms as many times as possible in lots of different situations.

He ran for the bus

David ran away from the dog

His Dad ran the school egg and spoon race

You may need to explain how the verbs change. When your child makes a mistake repeat their sentence using the correct verbs.

Child: ‘He runned for the bus’

Adult: ‘Yes he ran for the bus. Did he catch it?’ …

Use these games to help your child learn how to use verbs.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

Suitable for children aged 7 - 11 years

As understanding of language develops children will start to follow and use more complex sentence structures.

If it’s raining then get your coat” or “we won’t go unless you finish your homework”.

These are sometimes called conditional phrases and they can be very tricky.

As children become more able readers, they will start to come across lots of complex sentences, so it is important that they understand words like ‘unless’, ‘but not’, ‘if’ and ‘except’.

Try to use them as many times as possible in lots of different situations explaining what they mean as you go.

“We can’t go to the match unless Dad gets the tickets. That means Dad needs to get tickets and then we can go to the match”

Use these games to practice understanding complex sentences.

Suitable for children aged 7 - 11 years

  • Colour me This game works on understanding of: ‘except’, ‘unless’, ‘but not’, ‘if’
  • Turn over This game works on understanding of: ‘except’, ‘unless’, ‘but not’, ‘if’

To understand and answer questions, children need to learn which bit of information answers the particular question word i.e. ‘who?’ will always be a person or animal, ‘where?’ will always be a place. Many of our question words look and sound very similar and this can be confusing for young children. In the classroom children are surrounded by questions so it is important for them to master them.

Try to use particular question words as many times as possible in lots of different situations explaining what they mean as you go.

What do you want for your tea? That’s what Grandma likes. What will we do after tea?”

Use these games to practice question words.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

It is important for children to learn to answer why and how questions and to be able to explain how they have worked out the answers. Young children often go through a phase of asking lots and lots of ‘why’ questions. They do this to work out what a ‘why’ question is. The answers to ‘why’ questions are abstract, meaning you can’t ‘see’ them in the same way you can see the answer to a ‘who’, ‘what’ or ‘where’ question. So children need to practise asking and answering them a lot before they are able to use them well.

As children move up the years in school the questions will become more complex and they will be required to give explanations, so they are important skills to master.

Try to encourage your child to explain how they have worked out the answers to questions. You may have to do this for them at the start.

“Why are your feet wet? Oh I see your feet are wet because you stood in a puddle”

Older children need to learn to ‘read between the lines’ and answer questions where the answer is not in a picture or the text. In other words, they need to learn to make inferences. To help your child learn how to do this it’s important to explain answers to questions.

“I know its been raining because I can see puddles on the ground”

Use these games to practice answering why questions and making inferences.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

Suitable for children aged 7 - 11 years

To help children learn new words more easily they need to work on a number of different skills. Sorting things into groups, naming things in categories and identifying similarities and differences, and recognising which items go together are all important for learning new words.

The best way to build your child’s vocabulary is by exposing them to new words lots of times in different contexts, explaining the meaning as you go.

The corner is where the two sides meet.

How many corners does the table have?

Put your bag over in the corner

Use these games to practice skills for vocabulary building.

Suitable for children aged 4 - 7 years

Suitable for children aged 7 - 11 years