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How can EdTech support speech, language and communication needs?

The term speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) describes difficulties across one or many aspects of communication including: 

  • problems with producing speech sounds accurately 
  • stammering 
  • voice problems, such as hoarseness and loss of voice 
  • problems understanding language (making sense of what people say) 
  • problems using language (words and sentences) 
  • problems interacting with others. For example, difficulties understanding the non-verbal rules of good communication or using language in different ways to question, clarify or describe things


Nationally around 15% of learners have SEND, an6d about a fifth of these are categorised as SLCN, although this proportion drops amongst the roughly 4.5% who have education health and care plans (EHCPs) where autism becomes more significant, suggesting that there is a significant overlap between the two.


Speech, language and communication needs can have a detrimental impact on the quality of life of both children and adults. For example, conditions such as aphasia and dysarthria (difficulty speaking caused by problems controlling the muscles used in speech) can cause difficulties in communicating basic needs, holding conversations and participating in social situations. In the case of individuals with severe and complex needs, they may experience profound problems in both understanding and using language and have severe social interaction difficulties. Speech, language and communication needs can also have a direct impact on children’s development and educational outcomes, health and wellbeing. If left unaddressed, they can adversely affect children across their lifespan. For example, as many as 60% of young offenders and 88% of long-term unemployed young men have been found to have SLCN SEN Code of Practice (6.28)
Around 1.4 million children in the UK have long term speech, language and communication needs that they won’t grow out of. That equates to around 10% of children - two or three in every classroom. 

How can EdTech support SLCN?

In October 2022 Highfurlong SEND school in Blackpool hosted a SEND and inclusion study tour as part of their EDtech hub involvement and support. Educators from the Northwest region were able to see the school in action during the school day with a tour of the learning spaces and then an expert panel discussion with a Q & A for visitors. Watch the highlights here and the powerful inclusion of technology to support the teaching and learning of pupils. Find out more about the EdTech Hub programme from here


Edtech resources to support SLCN-  Simple recordable devices

Technology can help in many ways. It might, for instance, act as a voice, whether that is in using a full-blown communication aid, or simply a single message on a handheld device such as a Big Mack – a big button where a phrase is recorded and replayed when pressed. 



Voice recorders

Just about any device will have a built voice recorder, or can have an app installed easily and cheaply (usually for free) that can be used to rehearse phrases. Children and young people can record themselves and play it back in a sensitive and supportive way. 

Use speech to text tools


Many devices now have speech to text recognition. Use the dictation aspect of a device for pupils, and teachers to record their voices directly into text. Pupils will feel much engagement in seeing what they say actually then appear as text. Even mistakes in recognition by the program will enable interesting discussion  and dialogue.  

Use text-to-speech tools

As well as recording their voices, they could experiment with text to speech, to see whether their pronunciations can be understood by the computer. Text magic and text help are some examples, have a go and listen to your written text becoming the spoken word 

Text Magic Logo                                       TextHelp Logo


Access Talking apps

Apps such as ChatterPix kids give pupils the ability to put their voice into an image or photo. Simply take any photo, draw a line to make a mouth, and record their own voice. ChatterPix Kids is designed for young learners with no sharing features. A great empowering resource for pupils who may have the reluctance to speak in a public setting but will interact with technology and gain success and improve their confidence in communication.


Create a talking character using the iPad

Giving pupils the ability to put themselves in the role of a favourite character whether that might even be a simple word or song or simply saying their own name, as in the talking apps reference above,  gives pupils the experience of recording their own voice, hearing themselves and other back and perhaps even making decisions about changing their first attempt,  boosts verbal interactions using technology. Using live video in Keynote on the iPad opens many opportunities for extended speech and interactions. Further support for effective iPad use can be found at 

Use Widgit symbols

Via the LGfL you will have access to banks of Widgit symbols and ready-made resources to print.  Using images, such as symbols, can be a reinforcement to help memorise and recall words, including feelings, adjectives and adverbs, and abstract concepts. Access the resources here

Screenshot of Widget Page

example of widget images "would you recommend Widgit to other schools?"

Embed BBC Sound effects

Use the BBC sound effects, one of the LGfL resources to download sound clips and sound effects for pupils to listen to, use in a story and as an inspiration to pupils' creative work. This large database of audio sound effects can be used within a wide range of applications in an educational context. Many sounds have multiple versions to suit different uses and help enhance videos, presentations and podcasts. Access the resources here Image of BBC sound effect webpage

Lynne Castle at St Giles SEND School explains how LGfL helped her locate the resources she needed to support her literacy activities.


Download Listening books to support text accessibility 

Listening Books is an audiobook-lending charity established for those that find their illness, mental health, physical or learning disability affects their ability to read the printed word or hold a book. Audiobooks are an essential tool that can be used to help children who are finding reading challenging due to illness, disability or mental health conditions. Pupils with SLCN will have access to high-quality texts read aloud for anytime anywhere engagement and verbal modelling. Find out more here

Listening books logo

In conclusion

Overall technology offers lots of ways to support speech and language development, often building on well-established approaches, but sometimes offering ways of working that would not be possible without it. This not only includes providing a voice but also exploring and experimenting in engaging and creative ways. 

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