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Could my Child Have Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?

November 11, 2023by jineantheslp0

Many parents tell me that when they find out their child has DLD, it feels like an aha moment! So many things that may have felt only slightly significant on their own come together in a new way that finally makes sense! I am excited to share more about DLD so you can see if it may be a good description of the types of challenges your child is facing. If so, I want to emphasize that there is so much hope and so much help available so your child can thrive! Knowledge is power! The better you understand the root of your child’s challenges and the way those challenges can impact your child’s daily life, the better!

How Do I Know If My Child Has DLD?

Language plays a crucial role in a child’s journey, however, understanding words and using them to communicate does not come as naturally to some kids as it does to others. It is so great that you are here so that you can become aware of potential signs of developmental language disorder, an essential step in helping your child move forward successfully. In today’s post, we’ll explore ways to identify if your child might be experiencing challenges stemming from DLD.

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is a condition that affects a child’s ability to understand and use language effectively. All languages that a child uses will be impacted. It’s important to note that DLD is not related to intelligence – children with DLD often have typical intelligence but struggle with language skills. To recognize if your child may have DLD, consider the following signs:

  • Late Language Milestones:
    • While every child develops at their own pace, delays in reaching language milestones can be indicative of DLD with DLD
    • If your child is significantly behind their peers in speaking their first words or forming sentences, they are at a higher risk of having language problems that persist
  • Limited Vocabulary:
    • Children with DLD may have a smaller vocabulary compared to their peers and it may take them longer than others to learn new words
    • Pay attention to whether your child struggles to express themselves or has difficulty finding the right words when talking. Sometimes even when you know that your child knows a word, they may have trouble finding it quickly to use it when they need it.
    • Even when a child knows a vocabulary word, they may know it on a more surface level than their peers. For example, a child with DLD may recognize and correctly label a screwdriver, but get stuck when asked to tell how it is similar and different to a hammer (E.g. they are both tools, they both have handles, they are both used with fixing/building things, screwdrivers are used with screws but hammers are used with nails, screwdrivers are used by twisting them, hammers are used by banging them etc.)
  • Difficulty with Grammar:
    • DLD can manifest in challenges with grammar and sentence structure. Your child might make simpler sentences than their peers or get mixed up when more complex sentences are used.
    • A primary student may struggle with understanding the word unless. E.g. If the parent said, “you can go outside unless it’s raining,” the child may have understood, “You can go outside, um if it’s raining”.
    • They may also be slower to grasp exceptions to language rules (e.g. In English, still saying “we goed” instead of “we went” or “mouses” instead of “mice” when other children their age have learned these exceptions.)
    • Observe if your child has difficulty forming grammatically correct sentences appropriate for their age. If you’re not sure, speak with your child’s teachers to see how your child compares to same-age peers.
    • A middle school student with DLD may struggle with passive voice sentence construction, as in, “The colonies were established by European powers during the age of exploration.”
  • Social Communication Challenges:
    • Children with DLD may find it hard to engage in conversations or resolve conflicts using words, leading to difficulties in m
      aking friends or participating in group activities.
    • If your child seems reluctant to communicate or frequently misunderstands instructions, it could be a sign of DLD.
    • They also may have a harder time understanding jokes, sarcasm, and figurative language.

Frequent Daydreaming or Lack of Engagement:
Communication can get exhausting. When your child doesn’t understand some of the complex language being used at school, they may zone out or appear not to be paying attention.

    • With a history of communication challenges, a child may be less likely to engage in classroom discussions as they’ve stumbled over their words multiple times in the past and want to avoid doing that again.

Reading Comprehension Challenges: Even when information is read aloud to a child with DLD, they may not understand/retain as much as other kids due to challenges with vocabulary and complex grammar.

Difficulty with Writing: Even if your child is a good speller, they may find it very hard to get started and to persist in written assignments. They may write short, choppy sentences that do not link well together or flow naturally.

Math challenges: Your child may find math word problems much more challenging than basic fact questions

Executive Function Deficits: Your child may struggle with organization, time management, initiative, sticking to their goals when they experience challenges, planning and prioritizing, sustained attention, self-control etc.

 

Download our free DLD Infographic for further insight
into the world of DLD.

 

 

Navigating the Evaluation Process: Once you’ve recognized potential signs of DLD, the next step involves seeking a professional evaluation. This process is designed to understand your child’s specific strengths and challenges. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) Assessment:
    • A speech-language pathologist will assess various aspects of your child’s language skills. Be sure to ask that they also evaluate your child’s executive function skills.
    • The evaluation may include tests, observations, and interviews with parents, teachers, and the child to gain a comprehensive understanding of the child’s communication abilities.
    • The SLP will ask about your child’s developmental history, any other diagnoses they may have, and whether your child is taking any medication. Consider having your child’s hearing tested by an audiologist prior to meeting with your SLP and bring the results to your appointment.
  • Developmental Pediatrician Evaluation:
    • A developmental pediatrician may conduct a broader assessment, considering cognitive, emotional, and social aspects in addition to language skills.
    • This comprehensive evaluation helps create a holistic picture of your child’s development.
  • Creating a Supportive Environment: Once a diagnosis is established, it’s crucial to create a supportive environment for your child’s language development.

 

 

1.) Tailored Interventions:

    • Work closely with a Speech-Language Pathologist to develop a personalized intervention plan for your child
    • Be sure to ask your SLP about your child’s executive function skills and ways they can be strengthened
      • It is important to find a professional who makes you and your child feel comfortable and supported as valued members of the team. If you don’t feel that your SLP is a good fit for your personality type, it is ok to try another one.
    • An intervention plan may include speech therapy, educational support, and strategies for home.
      • This intervention plan should be adjusted as your child improves, new areas of difficulty arise, or life circumstances change. Make sure you and your child are aware of specific therapy goals.

2.) Encourage Your Child to Pursue Their Own Interests

    • We all like to feel good at things! Find out what motivates and interests your child and provide them with opportunities to explore their interests and develop their skills
    • Share your child’s strengths and interests with their team so they can tailor activities to be most meaningful for your child. Eg. if your child is super into soccer and is working on learning to write a persuasive paragraph with their SLP, they may be way more motivated to work if they are persuading their reader why their favourite soccer team is the best, rather than persuading someone why cats are better than dogs if they aren’t a pet person.

3.) Celebrate Progress: 

    • Celebrate small victories and progress along the way.
    • Positive reinforcement plays a crucial role in building your child’s confidence and motivation.
    • Instead of just giving a generic compliment like “great job!” be clear with what it is they did well. E.g. “I love how you kept on going even when writing in your journal felt really hard. I am so proud of you for sticking with it and not giving up!”

4.) Advocate for Your Child:

    • Advocate for your child’s needs within educational settings.
    • Collaborate with teachers and support staff to ensure your child receives the necessary accommodations and support.
    • Work with professionals to help your child learn to advocate for themself

5.) Approaching the Topic with Sensitivity:

Acknowledging that your child is experiencing challenges that aren’t going away can be a delicate task for any parent. Here are some tips for talking about DLD with your child:

6.) Choose the Right Moment:

    • Find a calm, relaxed setting where you won’t be interrupted when you are in the early stages of discussing a DLD diagnosis with your child
    • Foster an open and non-judgmental environment where your child feels comfortable sharing their feelings with you
    • Listen attentively without interrupting your child

7.) Empower with Information:

    • Provide basic information about DLD without using too many technical terms
    • Explain that it is a condition that makes some aspects of language more challenging but doesn’t affect their intelligence or self-worth
    • Acknowledge your child’s strengths and achievements.
    • Emphasize that everyone has unique abilities, and there are various ways to excel in life.

8.) Share Real Life Examples:

    • Use simple language to explain that it’s ok to have differences and many people face various challenges in their lives
    • Share examples of other children who have faced similar challenges but have overcome them with support and hard work.
    • Discuss famous people your child is interested in who have DLD or similar disorders
    • Involve your child in the process of seeking help.
    • Explain that support is available to help them overcome challenges and reach their full potential.

9.) Encourage Questions

    • Reassure your child that you will be there to answer questions they may have. Also, acknowledge that you may not always know the answers but can work with your child’s team to find answers. Encourage them that it is ok to have concerns, fears, or just feel curious.

10.) Express Unconditional Love

    • Emphasize that you are proud of your child and love them very much.
    • Remind them on an ongoing basis that you love and accept them just the way they are

BONUS Strategy:  Normalize Differences

    • Emphasize that everyone is unique and differences make the world a richer place. Point out areas in your own life that are challenging and share what you do to help yourself succeed in more challenging areas. With gentleness, point out areas that may be challenging for other important people in their life, highlighting that we all have strengths and weaknesses.

 

The fact that you are still reading this blog means you are a dedicated, caring person who has your child’s best interests at heart! There is so much you can do to help your child succeed. Continue learning and growing as you support your child. Stay in ongoing communication with your child’s team at school and any private therapists that may be involved. You are your child’s very best advocate!

It is okay to make mistakes along the way. Recognizing and addressing developmental language disorder in your child requires a blend of compassion, understanding, and proactive steps. By being attentive to potential signs, fostering open communication, seeking professional guidance, and creating a supportive environment, you empower your child to navigate the challenges and embrace their unique journey of language development. Expect to stumble at times along the way, knowing that you can get right back up and try again.

Remember, every child is unique, and with the right support,
they can flourish and reach their full potential.
You can do this!

 

 

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