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DLD & Speech Sound Disorder

Developmental Language Disorder & Speech Sound Disorder

In this episode of The Talking DLD Podcast we’re joined by Dr Helen Stringer and Professor Yvonne Wren to discuss Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and Speech Sound Disorder (SSD), including where they overlap and where they are distinct.

“Speech and language are equally important. If a child has speech and language difficulties, we need to do appropriate assessments to actually drill down and find out where the area of difficulty lies so that we can provide an appropriate intervention for them.”

Dr Helen Stringer

About Speech Sound Disorder

According to the Raising Children website, you’re concerned that your child might have a speech disorder, think about how often people who don’t know your child have trouble understanding what your child says.

When a child is 2½ years old, an unfamiliar person should understand about half of what the child is saying.

When a child is 4-5 years old, an unfamiliar person should understand the child about three-quarters of the time. The child will probably still say some sounds and words differently from adults.

When a child is 6-7 years old, an unfamiliar person should understand almost everything the child says. The child might make some errors in the ‘th’ sound in words like ‘this’ or ‘that’. They might also have trouble saying longer words like ‘hippopotamus’.

Some speech disorders happen when a child has a physical problem like a cleft palate, which makes it hard for the child to create the sounds of speech. Others have trouble because of deafness or hearing loss. But most children have no specific reason for their speech disorder.

About Dr Helen Stringer

Dr Helen Stringer is dual qualified as a speech and language therapist and teacher. She is currently working at Newcastle University UK, teaching and researching into developmental (and occasionally acquired) speech and language disorders. Helen has previously worked in special and mainstream schools, in CAHMS and as manager of an NHS Speech and Language Therapy Service. Much of Helen’s research focuses on evaluations of speech and language therapy interventions delivered in partnership with educational settings. Helen was a member of the CATALISE consortium Delphi panel. She contributed to the 2021-22 IALP Panel series What’s in a name? How should we define speech sound disorder and why does it matter? She was recently the lead author for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (UK) Speech Sound Disorder Clinical Guidance and Childhood Apraxia of Speech Position Paper.


Follow Helen on Twitter: @DrHelenSLT


About Professor Yvonne Wren

Yvonne Wren is Professor of Speech and Communication at the University of Bristol and Professor of Speech and Language Therapy at Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales. She is also Director of Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit, where she leads a team of researchers working across the field of communication impairment. She is Chief Investigator of the MISLToe_SSD study, which has led to the development of a core outcome set for use with children with speech sound disorder, and also Prosiect Pengwin, a Welsh Government funded study to develop a new programme for monitoring early speech, language and communication development in children growing up in Wales. Professor Wren also leads the research in cleft lip and palate at Bristol Dental School. She was previously chair of the Child Speech Committee for the International Association of Communication Sciences and Disorders and also set up the UK and Ireland Child Speech Disorder Research Network. She was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in 2022.


  • Stringer, H., Cleland, J., Wren, Y., Rees, R., & Williams, P. (2023). Speech sound disorder or DLD (phonology)? Towards a consensus agreement on terminology. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders.

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