dEVELOPMENTAL lANGUAGE dISORDER | dld
You’ve probably heard about autism and dyslexia but how about Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)? With 1 in 14 children having DLD, it is time we talk more about this hidden but common lifelong condition.
DLD causes difficulties with speaking and understanding for no known reason. There are serious and long-term impacts, as it puts children at greater risk of failing at school and struggling with mental health and future employment. The biggest challenge with DLD is you can’t tell by looking at a person that they have DLD and therefore, they often get overlooked for support.
People with Developmental Language Disorder can be as different as you and I. However, it is important to know that with the right supports, they can thrive!
Know the facts about DLD
- DLD is a brain difference that makes talking and listening difficult. It is 50 times more prevalent than hearing impairment and five times more prevalent than autism. (McGregor, 2020)
- The disability affects 7.5% of grade 1 children. Teachers, need to know about this hidden but common disability because, in a class of 30, two children will have DLD (Norbury et al., 2016)
- People with DLD are six times more likely to have reading difficulties and four times more likely to struggle with math. (Young et al., 2002)
- The condition tends to run in families. Twin studies indicate a strong genetic influence on DLD, but this seems to reflect the combined impact of many genes, rather than a specific mutation (Bishop, 2006).
- The popular view the disability is caused by parents who don’t talk to their children has no evidence-based support.
What are the signs of DLD in a child?
Children with DLD are as intelligent as their peers, but may experience difficulties with:
- understanding instructions
- answering questions
- learning new words
- putting words together to speak in sentences
- writing sentences
- telling stories
- playing with others
A child with DLD may struggle to follow instructions (i.e. “Before you get your English book out, put your pencil case on the desk”) and use shorter and simpler sentences when speaking (i.e. “She kick ball” instead of “She kicked the ball”). They may also present with other co-occurring difficulties such as dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and developmental coordination disorder/dyspraxia. This can put a student with DLD at serious risk of struggling with mental health or being bullied, as well as having an increased likelihood to fail at school.
What can you do?
Firstly, it’s important to remember students with DLD are very capable of achieving at school with the right supports in place.
We hear from children with DLD that they often feel invisible and misunderstood in the classroom. They also report feeling that their abilities are grossly underestimated. With this in mind we recommend a child is assessed by a speech pathologist as soon as possible if they present with:
- obvious difficulties with speech, language or communication
- challenging behaviour
- departures from typical development in other areas of growth or learning (e.g. motor) in under 5 year olds
- persistent difficulties with understanding and/or using language.
If you don’t have a speech pathologist at your school, you can direct the family to Speech Pathology Australia’s Find a Speech Pathologist page or Google speech pathology services in your local area. Families can self-refer to many speech pathology services, but you may also like to speak to your GP who may be able to help you access a Chronic Disease Management plan through Medicare. Write down your concerns about the child’s language, literacy and learning to share with the speech pathologist.
Parker's Journey to a DLD Diagnosis
15-year-old Parker lives in Brisbane, is an amazing photographer with nearly 4000 followers on his Instagram (@PHLPhotos) and he has Developmental Language Disorder.
Despite originally being diagnosed with dyslexia in Grade 3 Parker continued to have difficulties at school that were not totally explained by dyslexia which led to a diagnosis of DLD in early 2020.
“It’s not that you’re not listening or paying attention. DLD feels like everything is going over my head all the time. When I talk, it feels a bit like I’m about to stutter. Everything rushes to your mouth at once. I have to stop the sentence and restart or move onto something else. My mates don’t really notice, but I do,” he shared.
Having a label has been life-changing for Parker. It explains why he finds it difficult to understand when a teacher gives him an instruction and why he finds it hard to concentrate with his mind often going blank. Parker wants people to know that having DLD doesn’t mean you are ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’. Just like him, the 1 in 14 people with DLD are working incredibly hard to keep up with what’s going on around them.
“Knowing you have DLD means you don’t beat yourself up over it. People need to be patient and not get frustrated.”
Parker speaks adamantly about the importance of not being singled out. He doesn’t want to be treated differently.
“It’s ok to have DLD. You can’t get rid of it. We need more awareness of DLD. More people with DLD telling their story to let people know about it.”
You can listen to Parker share his experiences on The Talking DLD Podcast here.
DLD | The StatISTICS
DLD affects 7.5% of grade 1 children. Teachers, need to know about DLD, because there are two students with DLD in every classroom. In a class of 30, 2 children have DLD.
Norbury et al., 2016
DLD is 50 times more prevalent than hearing impairment and 5 times more prevalent than autism.
People with DLD are 6 times more likely to have reading difficulties and 4 times more likely to struggle with math.
Young et al., 2002
DLD commonly co-occurs with other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD, Developmental Coordination Disorder, dyslexia, and dyscalculia.
Cleaton & Kirby, 2018
4 out of 5 children with identified emotional and behavioural problems may have unidentified DLD.
Hollo et al., 2014; Benner et al., 200
DLD is unidentified in many affected children. Children with DLD often do not receive specialised services to address the condition.
Tomblin et al., 1997; Norbury et al., 2016
How did the term Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) come about?
Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is the new term to replace Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Developmental Language Disorder is diagnosed when children fail to acquire their own language for no obvious reason. In 2017, a group of 59 experts—most, but not all, of whom were speech pathologists—from six different English speaking countries (29 from the United Kingdom, seven from the United States, eight from Canada, six from Australia, four from New Zealand, and three from Ireland) participated in a consensus-building exercise aimed at identification criteria and terminology. The group were called the CATALISE group (Bishop, Snowling, Thompson, Greenhalgh, & CATALISE Consortium, 2016; Bishop, Snowling, Thompson, Greenhalgh, & CATALISE-2 Consortium, 2017).
The group recommended that the term Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) be used to refer to neurodevelopmental language deficit.