What is it? How might we be able to help?


Language disorder is a type of speech, language and communication need (SLCN) that affects that way that children understand and use language.

Difficulties with communication can impact on a child's education and social integration

Speech and language therapy aims to:

  • develop the language abilities of the child to their maximum potential

  • to teach strategies to the child and those around the child to reduce the impact of their difficulties.


Developmental speech difficulties is a term used to cover difficulties that some children have with their articulation, phonological and/or prosodic development. A variety of other terms are also used to describe developmental speech difficulties including speech sound disorder, speech delay and speech impairment and in some cases, dyspraxia. 

Speech and language therapy aims to identify the particular pattern of speech difficulties that the child has and provide appropriate intervention to match an individual’s needs. Some children have speech difficulties linked to childhood dysarthria. There is more information about this type of speech difficulty in the motor disorder topic area.


Dysfluent speech is the disruption of the flow and timing of speech by repetition of sounds, syllables or words, sound prolongation and/or blocking on sounds. They may involve significant tension and can be accompanied by secondary features such as facial grimaces, head/body movements or avoidance of saying certain words.  This differs from  typical 'non-fluency' experienced by most people such as hesitations, pauses to process or saying 'ummm' a little too frequently.
Dysfluency is common in  children under 5 and can be very alarming for parents.  Seeing your little one struggling to speak can be very hard, it is important to remember you have not done anything to cause it however seeking advice early is recommended.  Many children recover naturally however if your child does require therapy the Lidcombe programme may be an appropriate treatment.
If your child is school age advice can be sought from the British Stammering Association.


Children with social communication disorder have prominent difficulties with using language for social purposes, for example in conversation, story-telling, and using figurative language, i.e. jokes and metaphors. They may not meet the criteria for Autism as they do not always show restrictive interests or repetitive behaviors.

Speech and language therapists are uniquely qualified to assess these skills and provide support. Intervention may focus on understanding rules of conversation and using context to understand ambiguous language.

Autism is a lifelong condition affecting many areas of development including how a person:

  • communicates with other people

  • relates to other people

  • relates to the World around them.

This is a spectrum condition: while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways


Children who are exposed to and learning more than one language are considered to be bilingual.  They are at no greater or lesser risk of developing speech, language or communication difficulties than a monolingual child.  If you do have concerns about a bilingual child specialist assessment is important as they are at greater risk of difficulties being missed or incorrectly identified as being 'because they are learning two languages.'


Children may have learning difficulties resulting from a range of conditions.  Often where a child is progressing more slowly with their learning their language development is also affected.  It may be developing in line with other skills or lagging behind.  In this instance Speech and Lanaguge therapy can help to reduce that gap.  Early intervention to support parents such as Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCI) or our 'It Takes Two to Talk' course can make a big difference to your child's communication development.


Some children take a little longer to start using their words than others.  Sometimes this can be a symptom of another longer term condition such as a specific speech or language difficulty, a general learning difficulty or a social communication difficulty.  Other times it is simply that your child is taking a little longer to start, these children are referred to as late talkers.  Supporting parents at this time is vital to ensure you are confidently communicating with your child and providing the best lanaguge environment for them to flourish.  Parent child interaction (PCI) therapy, 'It Takes Two to Talk' and our Language groups may all be appropriate to encourage those early words.