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What is Developmental Language Disorder?

Two children in every classroom struggle with DLD. It is widely prevalent, but poorly understood. Nonetheless, it is a hidden liability that affects literacy learning, friendships and emotional well-being.

 

Developmental Language Disorder is diagnosed when a child fails to acquire their own language for no obvious reason. Children with DLD have difficulties understanding what people say to them, and struggle to articulate their ideas and feelings.

It is a hidden liability that affects literacy learning, friendships and emotional well-being.

Signs of DLD

Children with DLD may exhibit the following signs:

  • Generally quiet, doesn’t say very much; has difficulty expressing him/herself verbally
  • Style of speech seems immature or below the level of peers
  • Struggles to find the right words, and has limited vocabulary
  • Appears to not understand or remember what was said; has difficulty following spoken directions
  • Has difficulties knowing how to talk and listen to others in a conversation
  • Older children may have difficulties reading and using written language

DLD looks different in every child. The child’s specific difficulties can also change as they get older and need to develop more complex skills.

Details about DLD

About 1 in 15 children is affected by DLD. It is more common in boys than girls.

It is a long term impairment that persists into adulthood. Adults have DLD.

DLD runs in families, and as such, has a genetic component. DLD is NOT caused by parents who don’t talk to their children enough.

Speaking more than one language to a child does not cause or complicate DLD.

DLD is not caused by an injury to the brain. However, there may be subtle differences in the size of different brain regions and proportions of grey matter, but this differs from child to child.

DLD at school

Children with DLD, because they may fail to comprehend instructions, may be seen a naughty or inattentive by teachers.

Children with DLD may have social difficulties. Being able to express oneself fluently and to quickly grasp what others are saying can have a big impact on social relationships. Studies show that over half of kids with DLD experience bullying.

DLD commonly occurs with ADHD and dyslexia, and may overlap with mild autism.

For all these reasons, literacy and overall academic success can be affected by DLD, making identification and early intervention important.

Getting help for DLD

If you suspect your child has DLD, see a Speech and Language Therapist. They will be able to diagnose your child’s language difficulties and make recommendations for support at home and at school.

Some of the best school-based interventions for children with DLD come from teaching assistants who are trained and supported. Children with DLD often learn and understand better through visual and/or practical methods. For example, they would understand a story better if they watched it being acted out and drew it, rather than being told it verbally.

Mental wellness and DLD

Children with mild DLD appear to have few mental health difficulties.

Children with persistent language disorder struggle more with mental wellness. Research shows that two thirds of such children exhibit some externalising behaviours (ex. behavioural problems, aggression ‘fights with others’) and/or internalising difficulties (ex. withdrawl, tends to play alone). Fortunately, many of these difficulties often resolve in adolescence.

Teens with DLD are more prone to mental health problems. They are more than twice as likely to report symptoms of depression than their peers.

Most therapies for children’s mental health problems are “talking therapies”, which may not be optimal for children with DLD. Consider play therapy, art therapy or other visual and practical methods to support children with DLD.

Do you suspect that your child may have Developmental Language Disorder? Contact the BFDC, we can help.

 

Adapted from https://radld.org/about/dld/dld-fact-sheet/