Vocabulary and semantic skills
Vocabulary is the words a child has in their brain store of words (lexicon). Semantic skills refers to the child’s ability to understand the words they possess and their ability to use them appropriately.
Children who have difficulty using their vocabulary and semantic skills can often find it difficult to express their thoughts and feelings successfully. This may be because they have difficulty recalling the words they need, they don’t understand the meanings of the words they know or they don’t know many words at all.
Our speech and language therapists can assess your child’s expressive language skills to determine what everyday words they have, their ability to access these words and their ability to use them appropriately. Our speech and language therapists use the information from the assessment to create a therapy programme that works on improving the difficulties highlighted in the assessment.
What are vocabulary and semantic skills?
For a child to be able to communicate their thoughts and needs, a child must possess a store of words they can use to express themselves. For a child to use words appropriately they must understand what the words mean. Vocabulary and semantic skills work together to help a child express themselves successfully and in a way that can be understood by others.
Semantic skills are also important in helping a child understand and use phrases and longer utterances appropriately. Sometimes a child may retain a whole phrase that they have heard being used, but are unaware of its meaning. For that reason, they may use it in inappropriately.
A diverse vocabulary store can help a child learn new information at school and in the home.
A child may possess many words but struggle to understand and use these words appropriately, or a child may have a few words but is secure in understanding and using them appropriately. A child may have appropriate vocabulary they understand and know when to use, but struggle to recall words when needed. All three situations may cause difficulty with a child successfully expressing themselves.
Impact of vocabulary and semantic difficulties on expressive language
Difficulties with vocabulary and semantic skills can impact a child’s expressive language abilities and can cause:
- Difficulty recalling the names of words.
- Difficulty finding the correct words to use.
- Using the wrong words in utterance.
- Having fewer words than children of similar age.
- Confusing the meaning of words.
- Difficulty explaining the meaning or definitions of words.
- May use non-specific vocabulary like it, stuff or things.
- May omit words in a sentence.
- May struggle to be informative.
- Children may struggle to express a specific idea may talk in circles.
A child who has difficulties recalling or accessing a word when they are trying to express their thoughts can get frustrated, as they cannot express their thoughts fully. Frustration can develop if people assume the wrong meaning of what they are trying to say or assume the words they are trying to say. Difficulties with vocabulary and semantics can also impact a child’s academic and social development.
Our speech and language therapists help children who struggle with vocabulary or semantic skills by providing therapy that increases children’s ability to learn new words, understand the meaning of words, and use them appropriately. Our speech and language therapists work with parents and schools to develop a programme that can be delivered at home, school or the clinic.
Speech and language therapy available for difficulties with vocabulary and semantic skills
Our speech and language therapists can provide an individual therapy programme that works on your child’s specific areas of difficulties. The programme will include your child’s motivators and goals as well as yours and the school's priorities.
Speech and language therapy available includes:
- Individual therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Advice, training, support and strategies for parents, carers, teachers and other professionals.
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Our speech and language therapists help children who are struggling with vocabulary and understanding the meaning of words by expanding their word knowledge through teaching new words and their meaning to help express themselves more successfully. Speech and language therapy can increase a child's confidence and stop them from feeling frustrated and socially isolated. Our speech and language therapists aim to increase children’s activity and participation in daily life.