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Building Blocks of Communication

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

There are so many components to being an effective communicator. Do you know which area or areas your child struggles with? Find out if you know here!

One of my absolute favourite parts of working in private practice is having face-to-face time with parents and caregivers to provide them with quality education. The number one thing I explain to many parents is the difference between speech and language (and sometimes, social communication and literacy). As a professional, it may seem as though these differences are clear to everyone, or you may feel as though it doesn’t matter whether a parent knows the differences. But I am here to tell you - that’s not true! A parent who understands their child’s difficulties well is: (1) better able to support their child’s therapy and overall communication, and (2) is better able to communicate these difficulties to other people (including the child’s extended team).

So, let’s break down these terms...

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This is the way we sound when talking. Difficulties with speech often lead a child to be difficult to understand when they try to talk (also known as low intelligibility). Chances are your child is struggling with speech if you’ve heard terms including articulation, phonology, apraxia, or oral motor difficulties. In addition, fluency/stuttering and voice concerns may be mentioned.


This is the way a child understands and builds messages. Likely your child is struggling in this area if you’ve heard your SLP say things about: grammar, syntax, morphology, vocabulary (both gestures and spoken), combining words, following directions or answering questions.

Social Communication

This is the way we use our communication skills to interact with other people. Your child may have difficulties in this area if an SLP has mentioned: eye contact, joint attention, play skills, or conversation skills.


This is the ability to read and write messages. It can be seen as a child’s language skills (see above) in written text. It is likely your child’s literacy skills are not where they are expected to be if you’ve heard an SLP (or sometimes a teacher) say things about: reading, writing, phonological awareness, reading comprehension, decoding, or printing.

Some children have difficulties in only one area and others have difficulties across many of these areas. For example, if your child has difficulty understanding what they read, they may also have a language delay. Do you know what area or areas your child needs support in? If not and you would like to know, ask your speech-language pathologist to clarify this so you can better support their development and communicate your child's difficulties clearly to other team members.

Click here to get a free handout that includes the areas outlined in this article. It is great to use with parents!

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