What is Developmental Language Disorder and how is it missed?

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is predicted to affect as many as 7% of young people in the young population, that is approximately 2 within every primary classroom, this makes DLD the most common childhood difficulty.  Despite the prevalence, little is known about what DLD is, and how it affects a child within everyday life. DLD was previously known as SLI (Specific Language Impairment). 

DLD means that a young person has ‘significant’ and ‘persistent’ difficulties in using spoken language or understanding what has been said. DLD is a diagnosis that is given by a speech and language therapist to a child over 5 years old.

What signs may be present in children with DLD?

We know that DLD can vary from child to child, your child may present with a combination of the difficulties listed below:

What can we do to help?

  1. Children with DLD often find it difficult to learn at school, this is because they don’t just remember language in the same way as their peers and often need teaching in a more specialist way. 
  2. A good first step is to identify the parts of language your child needs most help with through a speech and language assessment. Your child may need a specialist speech and language programme to help their communication, this will have a knock on impact on their confidence and their ability to learn within school. 
  3. Within school children benefit from learning through doing, and using visuals alongside information to help them understand and remember. Use short instructions and explain in language that they will understand. Try to avoid ‘sayings’ or non literal language unless you are going to explain what it means clearly. 
  4. Give them time to process spoken language, try not to interrupt to help if you can see that they are thinking.Give them a change to discuss their ideas with a partner before sharing with the class. Within group scenarios, be aware they need adult support to facilitate them joining in whilst they get to know people. 
  5. Use repetition and real life examples so they can access learning and apply it to new ideas. 

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