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A helping hand
Boy holding presentation

Children with Speech, Communication and Language Needs can use AAC to produce vocabulary and sentences that that they may not yet be able to vocalise. It allows them to communicate their thoughts and make choices. It can give them a voice that they, otherwise, would not have had.

How do children build language?
'bee and honey' card

Children build language in a number of key ways:

  • They tend to link key ideas without the intervening words, eg 'Mummy gone', 'Find bear', 'Cat sleep'.
  • Once they have put two ideas together, they may link three, then maybe four – eg 'cat-sleep-chair'; 'cat-sleep-under-chair'.

These early utterances are the building blocks upon which more complex and grammatical speech is built.

Early words
'no more pie' card

Children's early utterances are often highly creative and original, and not simply imitated, eg the lexicon of a child with autism and SLD might be: 'green sausage' (gherkin!), 'chocolate tea' (hot chocolate)... and made up words, eg 'spik' (door wedge), 'poto' (TV remote control).

Early words may refer to something that is not in sight – this shows that children have developed an ability to think and hold an idea in their heads.

Trial and error
Boy smiling during class

Children will commonly make speech errors - this shows they are developing an awareness of the need to use grammatical rules (eg 'go-ed' instead of 'went') – 'Jack spend-ed the money'.

The development of children's ability to make jokes indicates their increasing ability to enjoy using language socially and of its effect on others.


This Open University broadcast 'Developing Language' provides an overview of how typically developing children acquire language from the earliest stages of communication.

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Find out more

Buckley, B (2003) Children's Communication Skills from Birth to Five Years. London: Routledge.