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Inferential comprehension

Inferential comprehension

Inferential comprehension refers to the child’s ability to understand meaning that is not explicitly stated or explained in text they have read, or information they have heard. Inferential comprehension is the child’s ability to make inferences.

Difficulties with inferential comprehension can lead to children taking a literal understanding of what is being said, misunderstanding what is being said or misinterpreting the intention of what was said.

Our speech and language therapists can assess your child’s inference skills to identify any possible difficulties and provide a therapy programme that works on increasing their inference skills. Increasing inference skills can help increase children’s understanding of what is being said as well as increase their overall communication skills.

What are inferences?

Inferences are the conclusions and presumptions we draw from what we have read or heard using, the information given, our prior knowledge, our experiences, our imagination and intuition.

You may have heard the saying “reading between the lines”, inference is similar, it refers to the child’s ability to not just understand information for its literal meaning, but to look deeper using their world knowledge and the connotations of the words used.

Inference is often automatic, it is something we do on a regular basis. When we have conversations we look for meaning in the words spoken, often we infer to help us understand what is being said better and to develop conversations. When there is a breakdown in the understanding of meaning we clarify to understand. If somebody told you “I have just got back from holiday and I now have a tan”, you would automatically assume that it was hot on their holiday. This was assumed through inferring from what was said (now suggests they hadn’t had a tan before the holiday) and using your world knowledge (you get a tan when you have been out in the sun). This would lead to you being able to expand on the conversation, you could respond by asking if the heat was bearable.

Inferences in conversation or while learning, help to increase memory and retention, as you make links with already existing memories, knowledge and schemas. The best way to increase your inference skills is by asking yourself questions about the information, for example; who? What? Where? When? Why?

The ability to infer is important as we constantly assume that people can make inferences from what we have said, our behaviour and our tone of voice. For that reason we don’t always give extra detail when speaking. It is the same with narratives and stories used in schools, it is up to the child’s imagination and understanding to make conclusions.

The ability to make inferences requires good vocabulary skills, good world knowledge, experiences, a good working memory as well as the ability to understand non-verbal language.

Why may children struggle with inferential comprehension?

Children may struggle with inference for many reasons, for example:

  • May be experiencing general language difficulties therefore understanding the literal meaning of information alone may be difficult.
  • Difficulty applying previously learnt knowledge to new information.
  • Difficulty paying attention to the details in spoken language.
  • Difficulty linking information.
  • Poor vocabulary skills.
  • Poor background knowledge and lack of experiences.
  • May focus in the irrelevant aspects of language.
  • May lack flexibility in language and imagination.
  • Difficulties with memory.

Difficulties with inferential comprehension can be for a range of reasons, our speech and language therapists can provide a therapy programme that works on increasing inference skills as well as the root of the difficulties.

Secondary school

We provide services to secondary schools. Your school will be provided with an enthusiastic speech and language therapist that is able to dedicate part of their time to improving speech, language and communication outcomes for the pupils throughout the secondary school.

  • Universal approach
  • Therapy based on your needs
  • Better outcomes for pupils

Impact of inferential comprehension difficulties on receptive language

Difficulties with inferential comprehension can impact a child’s receptive language abilities. For example children may:

  • Struggle to fully understand what has been said in conversations.
  • Struggle to expand on conversations.
  • Misinterpret or misunderstand information.
  • Struggle to understand non literal language.
  • Struggle to understand other people's opinion.
  • Struggle to understand idioms, metaphors, jokes and everyday sayings.
  • Difficulty sequencing scenarios.
  • Difficulty predicting or understanding alternatives.

A child who has difficulty with inferential comprehension may experience difficulties in all communicative environments including at home, school or with peers. Children may struggle to understand jokes made by peers or idioms used by teachers such as ‘pull your socks up’ or ‘where’s your head at?’.

Our speech and language therapists help children who struggle with inferential comprehension to increase their inferring skills, by providing therapy activities and strategies that help to analyse information to gain the most amount of information. Our speech and language therapists will work with the child’s school and parents to implement speech and language therapy across the child’s school and home environment.

Next steps

If you think your child has difficulty inferring information and is therefore struggling with language comprehension email office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298 to speak to one of our qualified speech and language therapists.

Free telephone consultation

We offer a free telephone consultation in order to discuss any concerns regarding your childs speech and language development. If you would like to book in a free telephone consultation do not hesitate to contact us on office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298. Alternatively, fill in the form below and a member of our team will be in touch.

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