& Professionals

How to help young people with Receptive Language Difficulties


Losing attention when being given verbal information

Useful strategies: 

  • Ensure that the pupil is attending to you before speaking to him.  Use verbal/physical prompts, such as saying name, touching arm etc.
  • Give an overview or context for the day’s lesson.


Not following instructions correctly

Useful strategies:

If there is a sequence of instructions to follow:-

  • pause between each one to allow time to process the information;
  • emphasise key words;
  • give instructions in the order they should happen.

Not understanding longer pieces of spoken information, such as a story/ factual information about a topic

Useful strategies: 


  • Be aware of the complexity of the language you are using with the pupil.  You may need to simplify the language and break down the amount of information given.
  • Provide simple written information or key points to reinforce spoken information (being aware of pupil’s literacy level).
  • Use a multi-sensory approach with the whole class i.e. visual information, pictures, objects and real life experiences to reinforce information the pupil has to listen to.
  • Encourage the pupil to tell you when he does not understand.



May misinterpret an explanation, instruction or question due to unfamiliar words i.e. vocabulary/ The pupil may have gaps in his vocabulary

Useful strategies:

  • Use simple vocabulary when speaking with pupil.
  • Avoid technical words and jargon – try and replace them with a simpler word that the pupil will understand.  If technical words do need to be used, explain what they mean e.g.  terms such as ‘contrast, compare, explain’.
  • Pre-tutor vocabulary in 1-1 or small groups if at all possible.
  • Display key vocabulary  in the classroom


Difficulty responding to non-literal language e.g. sarcasm, idioms, such as ‘pull your finger out!’, ‘put a sock in it’ etc.  Pupil may look ‘blank’ or take the information literally

Useful strategies:

  • Avoid using sarcasm, metaphors and idioms because these styles can be difficult for some pupils to understand.
  • If you do use them explain the meanings.


Difficulty understanding and answering questions, such as ‘Why? How? If?’ type questions

Useful strategies:


  • Re-word questions if the language is too complex for the pupil to understand e.g ‘look at his facial expression.  How do you think he is feeling?’    


Difficulty understanding written information

Useful Strategies:

  • Use questions, such as ‘who, where, when, what happened’ to form a visual structure to encourage the understanding of information and text.
  • Discuss the information together verbally.




Further information can be found in Secondary Language Builders - Advice and activities to encourage the communication skills of 11-16 year olds available from .

Local Initiatives

Early Years Initiatives

Our Early years team are currently working together with the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, this includes a rollout of language screening of children using Wellcomm tool.

School Age Initiatives

This is an area currently under development. There are a number of exciting developments to look forward to in the upcoming months in regards to how we work in schools.


 Enhanced Services initiatives

The Enhanced Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) Service offer bought-in input in schools. This might involve universal input, individual or group interventions. The Enhanced Team also support schools and staff to develop communication friendly environments and deliver training. For further information, please contact Fiona Taylor –


I have found working with the speech therapist very beneficial. She helps me to set achievable goals for the children by coming into the nursery and interacting with the children and getting to know them. She talks to us on a regular basis and updates us on what targets she would like the children to achieve next. She teaches us new strategies to use with the children which we find really useful, we try to incorporate this into everyday activities. Parent’s often comment on how much they appreciate the advice from our therapist. They also comment on how much progress their children have made since visiting her. We don’t know what we would do without her!

Anneka Williamson, Children’s Centre Practitioner

“It brought different activities to his usual routine which he enjoyed and encouraged him to participate”


“I have two children who are supported by the speech and language therapy service. The therapists have lots of patience with my children. Both Christipher and Marcus have come on a lot. Marcus now has lots more confidence and he talks much more in the classroom. Christipher isn’t as stressed anymore, his therapist has taught me exactly what to do. If I need any help, she is very easy to approach. Before I try new things with Christipher I can check with her first. The therapist knows him very well. She has worked wonders with him. Without her, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

Nicola, Mum of Christipher and Marcus

"My son Lewis has been attending speech and language for a few years. He has come on briliantly and is more confident. His speech is so much clearer now. He also enjoys the sessions. Jean gives me loads of ideas about how to continue helping him at home. He gets work sheets to take home which also he enjoys doing. Lewis has a short attention span and can find it difficult to concentrate for long, but Jean makes it very interesting for Lewis and different every session."

Tracy, Lewis

"I am Megan’s mum. Megan was identified as having speech and language difficulties when she was at primary school. Since this time she has been supported by the Education Inclusion Service Speech and Language team. This has made a huge difference to the development of Megan’s speech and language. Not only do they support Meg, they also support the staff at the school in delivering the programmes that Megan needs. The team are also there to answer any questions that I may have and will send us regular information on Megan’s target’s, what they are and if she has achieved them. Megan enjoys the sessions that she attends at school and they are delivered at times that try not to impact too greatly on her daily school life."

Hayley Robinson, Megan

EPs and SALT frequently work together during Multi agency meetings to Clarify individual concerns and strengths. We develop joint objectives, that are regularly reviewed And evaluated to improve outcomes for children and YP. Parents and teachers comment that this work is effective and helps to increase their Understanding and knowledge. Jointly we increase schools capacity, through conversations and training, to meet the needs of their pupils.

Joanne Snee- Educational Psychologist

“I couldn't be happier Grayson has come on so much in these 6 weeks. It has helped 100%. Thank you so much”

Parent of Grayson

“The service has been really helpful, the staff also been very kind and experienced. My child has learnt and developed some new communication skills and I also as the mom have known new ways to help my child through. Thanks”

Anonymous Parent

“I have not tried to phone as I am deaf. I felt like I was listened to with the use of a BSL interpreter. My son enjoyed coming into the room and playing with the toys.”

Anonymous Parent