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Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Developmental Language Disorder is common.  It affects 7.6% of children.  This is equal to 2 children in an average class of 30.

It is probably the most common condition that you have never heard of.

A boy with developmental language disroder looking sad

A child with DLD may have difficulties with:


attention and listening: they may zone out in noisy environments, and not be able to concentrate.  They may flit from one activity to another.

receptive language: they may struggle to understand complex language, or to remember longer instructions.  They may have learnt to copy other children, and their difficulties may not be obvious.

expressive language: they may struggle to learn new words or struggle to find the right word for something.  They may use shorter sentences and make mistakes with grammar, or use words in the wrong order.  They may struggle to retell a story about what has happened.

A child with DLD may present as though they have ADHD, ASD or dyslexia.  It is important that their speech and language is thoroughly assessed to determine

their exact needs.  Children with DLD can be supported in mainstream school with the right support.  They have normal intelligence and having DLD should not be a barrier to achievement and participation.

a teacher with a group of children showing a display of the solar system

How to help a child with DLD

Seek advice.  A phonecall with me is free. 

DLD is underdiagnosed.  A child's difficulties can sometimes lead them to withdraw or act out.  Undiagnosed DLD will affect a child's ability to learn literacy and participate in scoal relationships.

If your child is diagnosed with DLD, a speech and language therapist can provide advice for parents and teachers about how to support their language learning.  This may include:

  • interaction strategies such as being face-to-face and in a quiet environment for language learning

  • pre-teaching vocabulary for lessons and learning strategies for word learning and retention, such as what category a word belongs in, what other words it is related to, and how many syllables the word has.

  • using visual structure for constructing sentences so that they contain all the elements we need.  For example a person (name or pronoun), an action (a verb) and an object (a noun).  We can then build longer sentences which contain adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, and so on.

  • help with more complex language.  This may include being able to retell a story, explain why something happens, or negotiate with friends at school.

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