Why Doesn’t My Child Talk

by | Jun 30, 2021

 So often, parents come into our clinic, concerned that that their children haven’t started talking. Sometimes, their child’s peers have already started speaking, for other parents, their older children were speaking by this age, and they’re worried that their younger child isn’t meeting the same milestones as their older sibling.

As I’m sure we’ve all heard before, its important to remember that every child is unique and that no two children will follow the exact same pattern of development. As Speech and Language Therapists, there are broad ranges in which we expect development to occur for speech, language, and social communication. However, before we even consider addressing a child’s ability to talk, we must ensure that the foundations of communication are solid and secure. Children need to master a range of ‘pre-language’ skills before they are able to learn language. These can include:

  • Attention and listening – We learn any skill by watching and listening to others. For example, if you were learning to play a new instrument, you would have to watch and listen to your teacher to learn all of the skills needed to play that instrument.

    Similarly, if children are to learn new words and what those words mean, they need to hold and focus their attention on you to listen and begin to understand the meanings of the words you use. Children need to have mastered ‘single channelled attention’ before they are able to listen and learn during play. 

  • Play skills – The ability to co-operatively play with others is another essential tool to being a good communicator. To communicate with another person verbally or through signing, we must be able to take turns and mutually engage in an interaction. Play with another person follows similar principles, so, to teach children these principles, we use play as an approach to introduce co-operative interactions. 

The ‘communication pyramid’ is a useful visual that highlights the hierarchy in which we must learn these skills. If children can hold their attention on a task and co-operate with another person through play, only then will they be ready to actively participate in learning language.   

One of our previous blog posts provides a thorough list of easy games and activities to try at home with your little ones.  


*Our next post will focus on how to support children who have mastered these ‘pre-language’ skills but are still finding it challenging to learn and use new words*


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About the Author

Joanne Harries

Joanne Harries

Clinic Manager

Joanne is a friendly, positive, and outgoing Highly Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist & Sensory Integration Practitioner, with a real passion and drive for supporting children, young people and their families with everyday activities and challenges. Joanne Works in a professional manner at all times and it is her aim to make a difference to the lives of the individuals and families she supports.

Joanne has previously supported and help to set up Occupational Therapy services to; a children’s therapy company, secure setting for adults with complex needs, and specialist schools for Autism. Joanne’s experience of various diagnoses and working within teams of professionals also extends to complex behavioural difficulties.

Joanne has extensive experience of assessment and report writing, with a particular interest in assisting individuals, families, and Solicitors with SEN Tribunals. Joanne is available to provide assessment, consultancy and training to families, schools, Solicitors and parent support groups, remotely, in the South Wales clinic, across the UK and Internationally.

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