Encouraging reluctant speakers to communicate

Is your child reluctant to speak to adults outside of your home, including setting staff? There are many reasons why this might be the case. It could just be your child’s personality, or because they have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). If problems persist and your child’s setting expresses concern, then the Speech and Language Therapy service will be able to speak with you and your child about it.

Children can be reluctant to speak because they are having difficulties with:

young girl biting on coat

  • understanding what is being said
  • knowing the words
  • using words in a sentence
  • feeling overwhelmed by social interaction
  • speaking clearly

Some children are just more reserved, prefer their own company, or only feel confident to communicate with those who know them well.

Whatever the cause of your child’s reluctance to speak, using good interaction strategies will help. See Interacting with your child.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Some children with this condition can be withdrawn. They may only speak with those people they feel very confident about being around. ASD is a diagnosed condition. If you are concerned that your child may have this condition, speak to your Health Visitor or GP.

Selective mutism
Some children become very anxious about speaking outside of the home. This is usually noticed in children who are between 3 and 8 years old. Those with this condition will speak without difficulty in safe and familiar environments. If you are concerned that your child may have this condition, speak to your Health Visitor or GP or make a direct referral yourself to your local NHS Speech and Language Therapy Department.
Useful web links:
ASHA - Selective Mutism
Anxious Toddlers - Ways Parents Can Help Kids with Selective Mutism Podcast
NHS UK - Selective Mutism
Selective Mutism Center - What is Selective Mutism?

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Last modified: Wednesday, 5 May 2021, 3:17 PM