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Early Identification

The importance of early identification of SLCN cannot be over-emphasised. It is essential that needs are identified as quickly as possible so that early action can be taken to meet those needs.  There is a ‘window of opportunity’: if a child’s speech, language and communication skills are similar to those of their typically-developing peers by the age of about five-and-a-half, their life-long prospects are considerably better (The Inclusion Development Programme: Early Years Foundation Stage: Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).


For some children, identification will have been initiated and SLCN recognised when the child is very young.  For other children, the difficulties may emerge later, as the child starts nursery or school. Sometimes SLCN are not apparent until the child is older, perhaps as the school curriculum becomes more challenging or the child is showing increasing signs of frustration resulting in difficulties that affect behaviour. SLCN may also be a result of an acquired brain injury or trauma in the child's life.


The process of identification may be initiated by a variety of people depending on the child's age and the circumstances involved, including:

  • Parents
  • Health visitors
  • GPs
  • Community paediatricians
  • Pre-school staff
  • School staff
  • Specialist teachers

It is important that everyone involved works closely together to ensure a consistent approach for the child and family.


  • Accurately identifying SLCN requires careful observation of the child in a variety of contexts, knowledge of the environment and a range of tools to provide a complete picture of the child’s strengths, difficulties and needs. The most reliable assessments will take into account the child's views, parents' knowledge of the child and observations from all professionals who are involved with the child.
  • Assessment should be regarded as a continuous process over time, not as a single event.  The aim of assessment is to gather evidence to inform and enable appropriate and timely support and provision for the child.

For useful guidance and further information refer to: Talking Point (External Website)  where there are sections for health visitors, GPs, parents etc.

There are a number of tools within the Worcestershire SLCN Pathway to help with the process of identification and assessment over time. These include:

© Worcestershire County Council and Worcestershire PCT 2011.

Further Information

In this section

More Information

See also in our website

External websites

  • Communication Trust
    The Communication Trust is a campaigning voice for children with speech, language and communication needs.
  • Language for Learning
    Provides courses and resources for staff from Early Years to Secondary Level and training and materials for trainers to deliver these courses within their own Authorities
  • Speech and Language Therapy
    Information form Worcestershire Health Care NHS
  • Speech Link
    Speech Link and Language Link encourage high quality support for children with speech and language problems.

We are not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more

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This page was last reviewed 17 April 2013 at 10:40.
The page is next due for review 14 October 2014.