Children’s speech and language therapy: information for parents and carers

Communication skills are fundamental to your child’s development because they're part of everything we do.

Communication skills help us with: 

  • Feelings and experiences and making friends
  • Interacting with others
  • Joining in with games and activities
  • Listening to people
  • Sharing ideas
  • Talking about something that's happened
  • Understanding what people say and how they feel.

The first 5 years of life are when these skills develop quickly. So, if your child's having difficulty, it’s important that they get help as soon as possible.

If any of these sound like your child, don’t wait, ask for a referral to speech and language therapy.

Is your child:

  • Appearing not to understand what’s being said to them even by 18 months old?
  • Having difficulties playing or interacting with other people?
  • Having difficulties speaking fluently, such as a stammer?
  • Having continuing eating, drinking or swallowing difficulties?
  • Not putting 2 words together at 2½ years old?
  • Not relatively easily understood by 3½ years old?
  • Not speaking in a setting such as nursery after a settling in period of 6 weeks or more? 
  • Not using any words at 18 months old?
  • Showing signs of frustration about getting their message across?
  • Using less than 50 words at 2 years old (these can be a mixture of languages)?
  • Very quietly spoken, hoarse, or unable to talk loudly at all?

It’s never too early to refer a child for speech and language support. If you’re worried about your child’s communication or swallowing, follow these steps.

Children aged 5 or under

If your child is under 5 years old, attends a mainstream school or nursery in Ealing, speak to the school’s special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) about making a referral.

If your child doesn’t go to a mainstream school/nursery, any health or education professional can make a referral.

A referral form called an early help assessment plan (EHAP) can be used to make a referral for children under 5.

For more information on EHAPs, please visit the Family Information Service website or call Ealing’s Family Information Service on 020 8825 5588.

If your child has an Ealing GP but doesn’t go to a school in Ealing, you'll need to ask your GP to refer you.

If your child has eating, drinking or swallowing needs, any health or education professional can make a referral.

Waiting times for your child’s first speech and language assessment can vary, but we aim to offer your child an appointment within 6 weeks of receiving the referral.

We can carry out assessments in a range of places, including:

  • Health centre or clinic
  • Children’s centre
  • Nursery
  • School.

We’ll tell you in advance where you need to be, and when, for your child’s assessment.

If you can’t keep an appointment

Please let us know in advance if you need to cancel the appointment so that we can rearrange it. 

To rearrange, please call the Ealing community referral hub on 0300 12345 44

If you don’t attend the assessment appointment and don’t let us know in advance, your child may not be offered an alternative and you may have to begin the referral process again.

What happens at the assessment

You’ll meet a speech and language therapist with your child to discuss your concerns about your child’s speech and language development.

The speech and language therapist will ask you questions about your child’s development and will also observe and assess your child’s communication skills.

At the end of the appointment, the therapist will discuss your child’s strengths, needs and the next steps with you.  

What happens after the assessment

If your child's assessed in a clinic

The therapist will let you know about the next steps if your child needs therapy.

They’ll also give you tips and strategies to help support your child. It’s important to carry out activities at home on a regular basis to help your child.

If your child's assessed at school

  • The therapist will let you know if your child needs therapy
  • If so, your child will have this at school
  • The therapist will work with you and the school to advise what support and therapy your child needs in school.
  • They’ll also give you tips and strategies to help support your child at home
  • It’s important to carry out activities at home on a regular basis to help your child. 

What to do while waiting for therapy

You should keep supporting your child’s language and communication by following the therapist’s suggestions from the initial assessment.

If your child has been discharged from the service and you’re still concerned, they can be referred to the service again by any health professional or education practitioner.

It’s important that recommendations or activities given by the speech and language therapist have been carried out on a regular basis before making a re-referral.

If your child was discharged because you missed your initial assessment appointment, please contact the person who first referred your child and ask them to re-refer to speech and language therapy.  

Being able to speak two languages – or being bilingual – is an advantage because:

  • It supports the learning of all languages, including English
  • It helps with thinking and learning
  • It’s linked to good education and life outcomes.

Being bilingual doesn’t cause difficulties with speech and language.

Speech and language therapists can use interpreters to help families who speak different languages.

For more information on the benefits of bilingualism, see 

Bilingual language development

  • Some children who’re learning a new language go through a silent period when they first start hearing it, for example at nursery or school. If your child hasn't spoken in nursery or school for longer than 1 month, contact us for advice.
  • It takes approximately 2 years of being exposed to a second language for children to be able to have a conversation in the second language.
  • It takes 5 to 7 years for children to become fluent in a second language.
  • Being bilingual doesn’t cause difficulties with speech and language.
  • Switching between languages when speaking is typical for children and adults.
  • Learning 2 languages at the same time isn't confusing for children.

Ealing Local Offer

Find out how to access services and support in Ealing for children and families who’re living with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). Visit the Local Offer website 

Contact Ealing

Contact Ealing provides support, advice and information for families with disabled children, whatever their condition or disability. Visit the Contact Ealing website

Ealing Parent and Carer Forum

The forum works to ensure that Ealing Council, local health and other service providers understand what children and young adults with additional needs require for their development. Visit the Ealing Parent and Carer Forum website

Hungry Little Minds

This government campaign shares ideas and activities to develop communication different ages from 0 to 5. Visit the Hungry Little Minds website