Support for schools

Children need good speech and language skills to help them learn and thrive at school. Many children start school with delayed speech and language.

It is important to identify those pupils with difficulties so that they may receive the help they need.

With quality teaching and early intervention children can catch up. 1 in 10 children will have more persistent difficulties.

These may include:

  • speech difficulties
  • language disorders associated with other conditions such as autism, intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments, or genetic conditions
  • Developmental Language Disorder

On this page you will find information on:

Classroom strategies

Classroom strategies to help children to understand language

  • Keep your instructions short.
  • Give clear explanations, repeating as necessary.
  • Check for understanding often.
  • Use visual supports.

Classroom strategies to help children develop spoken language

  • Make comments more than questions.
  • Model words and sentences often.
  • Expand or add to what a pupil may say.
  • Give plenty of time to respond.
  • Encourage and use non-verbal communication such as gestures and facial expression.

Classroom strategies to help older children who stammer

  • Don’t hurry. Model an easy, relaxed speaking style.
  • Reduce verbal interruptions in the classroom.
  • Allow children plenty of time to talk and answer questions.
  • Keep natural eye contact.
  • Stay focused on the message and remain calm no matter how much stammering occurs.
  • Create a classroom environment that accepts and accommodates stammering.
  • Remember the degree of stammering is likely to be variable. A child may stammer more if anxious about stammering.
  • Acknowledge the stammering in a matter of fact way. You might say something like, ‘that was a hard word to say’ or ‘that was a bit bumpy’.
  • Avoid asking a child to ‘take a deep breath’ or 'take your time’. While well meant, this is rarely helpful and may impact self-confidence.
  • Talk to the child’s parents and discuss your concerns as soon as possible.
  • Discuss referral to speech and language therapy with parents. An early referral can prevent development of a long term difficulty.

The websites below provide further useful information about stammering.

Classroom strategies for linguistic diversity

Bilingualism is the norm in most countries of the world. Bilingual children are no more at risk of speech/language/communication difficulties than any other group. Speaking several languages usually has positive benefits for learning.

People who are bilingual or multilingual are able to comprehend and/or express themselves through two or more languages. This includes oral, manual, or written form with at least a basic level of functional skill or use. This is regardless of the age at which the languages were learned (IASLT Guidelines 2016).

  • Three children in every classroom, speak a language other than English or Irish at home on a daily basis (Central Statistics Office 2017). It may take up to 2 years before children will begin to express themselves in their second language. It may take 3-5 years of full time English schooling to have oral English abilities similar to those of native speakers. It may take up to 7 years for a child to achieve proficiency in English for academic purposes that is on par with native speakers (IASLT Guidelines 2016).
  •  A child may use elements from two or more languages when talking. This is code-switching and is normal for bi or multilingual children. Code- switching may allow a child to use both languages while keeping the intended meaning intact.
  • Some bilingual children are mistakenly seen as having language difficulties. In other cases, language difficulties may be over looked because of their bilingualism.
  • Bilingual children may need more specialised support only if there are difficulties with acquiring the home language.
  • Parents may need to be encouraged to continue to speak to their child in the first language. Research shows that the stronger the first language, the more easily the child will acquire English. If the child is only exposed to English, they may lose ability to use the first language.

 The following strategies are recommended:

  • Keep your language clear, consistent and simple – use gestures and body language to aid communication.
  • Use visual aids to support the child’s understanding and inclusion in classroom activities – timelines, pictures, photographs, key words and videos with captions may be useful.
  • Give the child plenty of time to respond.
  • Consider seating the child near to you.
  • Use language buddies – pair the child with a suitable peer. There may be a child in the class who speaks the same language but is more competent in English, or a child who can be a supportive English speaker.
  • Promote cultural awareness in your classroom and school.
  • Remember the child may say very little at first, a silent phase can be normal. Focus on listening activities where the child is not required to speak much.

For more information and resources:
EAL padlet on PDST website
NCCA website has guidelines, assessment kit and classroom resources
SESS Functional Language and Communication resource
English Language Support Teachers Association of Ireland
‘Growing up with two or more languages’ by Talk Nua 
‘Factsheet Bilingualism’
Cambridge English resources and booklets  

Language Link

LanguageLink is a teacher led package for children’s language development. It provides language assessment, lesson plans, resources and activities. Primary Care Speech and Language Therapy provide support to schools that use LanguageLink.

Learn more about LanguageLink

Oral Language Cluster Groups

Oral language cluster groups are for teachers working in Cavan and Monaghan.

National Educational Psychologists and Primary Care Speech and Language Therapists facilitate the groups. Participants chose the topics for discussion. Previous topics included speech and language assessment process, supports and programmes.

For more information contact your National Educational Psychologist or Speech and Language Therapist.

Other speech and language topics relevant to the children in your classroom include: 

  • stammering 
  • voice 
  • bilingualism
  • FEDS 
  • selective or elective mutism

Website resources

Websites about Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

DLD is when children have substantial difficulties understanding and using spoken language. DLD is not caused by a medical condition, hearing impairment, general learning difficulty or social emotional difficulty. DLD is likely to carry on into adulthood and have an impact on the child’s social and academic attainments (IASLT, 2017). Useful websites about DLD:

Websites for supporting children’s speech, language and communication