& Professionals

How to help young people with Expressive Language Difficulties



General Difficulty expressing themselves

Possbile implications:

  • May be very quiet in the classroom and reluctant to answer questions.
  • May give very limited answers.
  • Limited spoken language will be reflected in the written language.


Useful strategies:

  • Give the pupil plenty of time to formulate their ideas and to provide an answer.
  • Encourage the pupil to expand his answers by saying for example “I don’t quite understand what you mean.  Could you give me some more information”. 
  • Ask open ended questions e.g “what are you doing now?” “How does this work? “ “Why do you think that happened?


Voabulary knowledge and word finding difficulties

Possbile implications:

  • Misinterpreting an explanation, instruction or question due to unfamiliar words.
  • Lack of specific vocabulary when speaking and overuse of words such as he, it, thingy, that
  • Frustration at not being able to recall the vocabulary that he wants to use.


Useful strategies:

  • Teach new vocabulary thoroughly and in an organised way so that this vocabulary can be recalled when needed.
  • Introduce a few new words at a time.
  • Focus on the vocabulary that is most relevant for that pupil.
  • Use a multi-sensory approach to vocabulary learning e.g. mind-maps.
  • Give the pupil lots of opportunities to say the new words in order to retain them.
  • When a pupil is struggling to recall a specific word give semantic and phonic clues to jog the memory e.g. ‘what do you do with it, tell me something else about it, what sound do you think it begins with?'
  • Giving the initial sound will often prompt the pupil to remember the word e.g. It begins with ch..
  • Discuss with the pupil which strategies help him to remember words.


Grammatical difficulties 

Possbile implications:

  • May make grammatical errors or omit words
  • Common difficulties are past and passive tense errors,  incorrect plurals or pronouns, limited range of connectives.


Useful strategies:

  • All staff should model the correct grammatical structure e.g.

Pupil: ‘the material catched fire’

Adult models: ‘it caught fire’ (stressing the correct form)

  • Consider teaching specific grammatical structures in English lessons if there is a pattern of errors e.g irregular past tense.

  • Use close procedure worksheets which reinforce the structure that the pupil is learning.  The pupil can then fill in the gaps with the correct word or word ending.
  • Encourage the pupil to self-monitor or reflect on his use of grammar, by saying “Listen to the way you said that… does that sound right?”


Being able to verbally explain an event or tell a story

Possbile implications:

  • May take time to respond and therefore appear rude.
  • Not able to clearly explain a sequence of events. 
  • May have limited time vocabulary e.g before, last week, immediately.
  • May have limited imagination for creative writing
  • Difficulty writing stories, factual accounts, descriptive writing, comparing and contrasting.


Useful strategies:

  • Give the pupil time to respond. He may need longer to think about what he wants to say.
  • Support the pupil with a visual structure to re-tell his story. Use words such as first, and then, last. 
  • Develop sequencing skills – draw attention to sequences of events throughout the curriculum e.g. in science experiment, in history event or timeline.
  • Encourage story planning through brainstorming ideas and creating mind-maps or story boards.
  • Allow oral methods of recording e.g. tape/video.
  • Ensure that the vocabulary related to the task is understood e.g. perspective, comparison, argument.



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