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:
- May be quieter than their peers and show difficulties expressing themself using words.
- Their talking may sound ‘different’ than their age, it may sound muddled or unusual.
- May find it difficult to find words, or use limited vocabulary. They often have difficulties with remembering and learning new words.
- May appeared like their ideas are mixed when they try to explain something and have difficulties in telling stories.
- Their sentences may sound shorter, with bits missed out or in the wrong order and be hard to follow as a result.
- Find it difficult to keep their concentration within class, may appear to be day dreaming or look lost. May take longer to follow instructions or need more prompting to complete work in class.
- Sometimes their difficulties with language may be interpreted as behaviour, such as attention seeking behaviour or misbehaving in class.
- They may find it difficult to follow the jist of a conversation, this is particularly obvious in a group of people where the child has to listen to lots of new ideas at the same time.
- They may struggle socially, being quiet in groups or interrupting frequently. They may change the topic of conversation strangely, or not be able to ask for clarification when they do not understand something.
What can we do to help?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use repetition and real life examples so they can access learning and apply it to new ideas.
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