Girl using chin switchesMost people think communication refers only to talking. However, communication involves much more!

On this page

What is communication?

Everybody communicates everyday, in lots of different ways. Whenever two people spend time with each other they are probably communicating. It may only be a smile to say 'hello', or a nod to say it is OK to sit down on the same park bench. People are communicating when they make a phone call, write a note for someone, or even send an email.

Communication is about:

  • being able to understand the meaning of what is being said or done to you and around you
  • being able to express your thoughts, feelings and ideas.

We all communicate in lots of different ways.

A child is communicating when they:

  • cry and rub their eyes
    Drawing of girl crying  and rubbing eyes.
  • hold up their new toy, look at their Grandma and give a big smile
    Drawing - child holding up a toy to grandmother.long description link for Child and grandmother
  • point at the door handle as they hear Daddy’s car coming in the driveway
    Drawing - Boy pointing to door.
  • say ‘uh’ as they point to that duck that has just eaten the bread!
     Parent & child watching ducks with child saying Uh.

Top of page contents

Even poking out a tongue sends a message that people can understand.
Drawing - Child poking out tongue

What could have been the message in these examples?

A few of them could have more than one message. For example, crying and rubbing eyes may be communicating that a child is tired. If they were in the bath washing their hair the message could be completely different – ‘yow, I have shampoo in my eyes’
Drawing - Mother wiping face of child

Being able to work out and understand the message is the 'other side of the coin'. Children have to look at and understand all sorts of things to work out the messages around them. For example:

  • A child may need to understand the meaning of Daddy shaking his head when he is reaching to pull his sister's hair
    Drawing - Dad shaking head & saying No! to child
  • A little girl may put out her arms to be picked up when Mum smiles, claps and stretches her arms out towards her
    Drawing - child raising arms to mother standing nearby.
  • A child may get excited about a trip, when Nona grabs the car keys, says the child’s sister’s name and heads toward the door to do the school pick-up.
    Drawing - Child with grandma who is holding keys near door.

Top of page contents

Communication difficulties

Communication difficulties can include:

  • having difficulty expressing what you want to say
  • having difficulty understanding others
  • having difficulty understanding and expressing.

Any communication difficulty may have a big effect on a child’s life and development. The Factsheets page of the Speech Pathology Australia website has lots of useful information about the following communication difficulties:

  • What is a Communication Disability?
  • Who has a Communication Disability? 
  • What is it like to have a Communication Disability?

Communication difficulties for children with physical disabilities

Having a physical disability may mean that children have a very different experience of communication. Think about the following examples:

  • The child who finds it hard to point because of physical disability - this child may find it hard to give the message that they want a toy - it may be hard for them to ‘show’ it to mummy by pointing at it and making her look at it
  • The child who has great difficulty controlling the muscles of their face or who is unable to turn their head - this child may find it hard to show that they don’t want any more mashed banana
  • The child whose physical disability makes their speech unclear - people may not talk to them as much - they may not have as many chances to learn how  communication 'works'.

Top of page contents

How can a speech pathologist help?

JennyView a videoclip of Jenny, speech pathologist, and parents of children with cerebral palsy talking about communication (this link commences streaming of a 8.4 Megabyte MOV file of 2 minutes, 30 seconds duration)

Novita speech pathologists can give families and other people who spend time with children lots of great ideas about helping children learn to communicate. Speech pathologists may also work with the child themselves to help them with their communication development.

Some of the areas in which speech pathologists may be involved are:

Disclaimer Detail: The above information on is of a general nature only and does not constitute advice. Novita Children's Services makes no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy, usefulness, suitability or application of the information to a child's particular circumstances. Use of the information above is at your sole risk, and you should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the information. Novita Children's Services accepts no liability for any damages or loss that may arise from the use of, or any omission from, the information provided.
In using this site, you are agreeing to the 
Terms and Conditions of Use for the site.