A high proportion of children and young people with mental health issues have unidentified speech, language and communication problems. This is especially true for looked after children, as explained in a factsheet from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists which can be accessed here
Communication difficulties can have a major effect on a child or young person’s education as well as day-to-day interactions. Behaviour problems, which may be difficult to manage, can result when the struggle to communicate is not recognised. There is a strong, specific and complex relationship between mental health difficulties and developmental communication problems.
When caregivers or school staff suspect that a child or young person is having problems understanding what is said to them, or expressing themselves, a referral to speech and language therapy is needed. An assessment can reveal the child or young person’s communication strengths and difficulties. The therapist can then work with everyone involved to develop strategies for supporting the looked after child to communicate, as well as working with the child or young person themselves to find ways to make interactions more effective.
It may be surprising that significant communication difficulties could be undetected for many years. However, sometimes these issues are missed when other complex matters are being addressed, and teenagers with language learning difficulties can be very good at covering up their difficulties.
Attention to a looked after child’s communication needs can have a major impact on their education, emotional wellbeing and prospects for independence in adulthood.
Sally Dickens Speech and Language Therapist , Associate at Orb8
photo by Humphrey Muleba - Unsplash