14-17 years

This is a guide to how young people typically develop their talking and understanding of words between 14 and 17 years.

Young people develop skills at different rates, but by 17 years, most young people will: 

  • Follow long and complicated instructions. 
  • Know when they haven’t understood something. They will ask to be told again or will ask for something specific to be explained. 
  • Easily swap between ‘classroom’ talk and ‘break-time’ talk, adjusting their talking style based on who they are talking to. 
  • Tell long and very complicated stories. 

Support young people aged 14-17 years with their talking and understanding of words

Talk for Work (formerly called Talk about Talk Secondary) is an evidenced targeted intervention that helps students aged 14 to 18 with difficulties in talking and understanding words to be ready for the workplace.
Learn more

Things to look out for 

Some young people struggle with learning to talk and understand words. Possible signs to look at for at this age include: 

  • Young people who have difficulty giving specific answers or explanations. 
  • Young people who have difficulty telling their ideas in the right order. 
  • Young people who are better at understanding individual instructions than group instructions.  
  • Young people who find it difficult to understand hidden meanings. For example, they wouldn’t understand that someone wants to close the window or turn up the heating when they say, ‘It’s a bit chilly in here!’. 
  • Young people who find long and complicated instructions hard to understand. 
  • Young people who have trouble learning new words. 
  • Young people who take a long time to organise what they are going to say or write. 
  • Young people who take what others say literally. For example, they don’t understand that someone could take longer than one minute if they say, “I’ll be back in a minute”. 
  • Young people who have difficulty taking turns in conversations. 
  • Young people who talk to teachers and friends in the same way instead of adjusting their style of talking based on who they are talking to. 

If you notice any of these things, have a closer look at the young person’s speech, language and communication skills using one of our free tools: 

Follow the process in your setting/workplace for raising concerns. This should include discussing your concerns with the young person’s family and your SENCo. Statutory guidance is outlined in the SEND Code of Practice (2015).