Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

DLD is a condition many are unaware of - and we're on a mission to change that!
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We are passionate about spreading the word about DLD and increasing awareness of its many impacts. For far too long, families have been comforted with the term “language delay,” implying it’s just a phase that will pass. However, we now recognize that with DLD, these language challenges journey with someone throughout their lifetime, influencing everything from schoolwork to friendships and emotions. Together, we can understand, navigate, and support your child’s unique path.

What is Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?

Developmental Language Disorder, commonly known as DLD, is a neurodevelopmental condition where children have persistent difficulties understanding and/or using spoken language, with no obvious cause. Unfortunately, many people have never heard of it, and it frequently goes undiagnosed. Unlike some other speech and language disorders, DLD isn’t the result of hearing impairment, general developmental delay, or other conditions. It’s important to recognize that every child with DLD is unique, and the severity and nature of their challenges may vary. This disorder can influence various aspects of your child’s life, from academic performance to social interactions.

What causes DLD?

The exact causes of DLD remain unknown, but it’s believed to potentially have a genetic component. Current research suggests that a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors may contribute to its onset. It’s important for parents to understand that DLD is not the result of anything they did or didn’t do.

How can DLD affect my child's academic performance?

Children with DLD might find it challenging to follow classroom instructions, express their ideas clearly, or engage in discussions. This can impact their performance in reading, writing, and other language-intensive subjects. Without appropriate support, they may also struggle with self-esteem and confidence in an academic setting.

Why haven't I heard of DLD if it's so common?

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) affects about 7% of children, yet it’s not widely recognized

Here’s a quick snapshot of why:

  • Media Spotlight: Conditions like autism and ADHD often get more media attention, leaving DLD less discussed.
  • Language Myths: Common misconceptions suggest children will “catch up” with peers, possibly delaying timely interventions.
  • Complex Presentation: DLD can intertwine with other conditions, making it sometimes harder to pinpoint.
  • Evolving Terminology: The term ‘DLD’ is newer in the medical world. Previous labels might have led to some confusion.
  • Stigma & Sensitivity: Some parents hope children will naturally outgrow language challenges, reducing public discussion.
  • Diagnosis Hurdles: Limited resources and awareness can result in some children with DLD going undiagnosed.

Awareness is key. As we enhance understanding, we can better support and empower every child with DLD.

Is DLD the same as a speech disorder or dyslexia?

No, DLD is distinct. While DLD involves difficulties with understanding and producing language, speech disorders pertain to challenges with the clarity and sound of spoken words. Dyslexia, on the other hand, primarily affects reading and writing. However, it’s worth noting that a child can have DLD alongside other conditions, such as dyslexia or a speech disorder.

How common is DLD?

DLD affects approximately 7.6% of all children in primary school (Norbury et al, 2016), which equates to roughly two children in every average class of 30 in the UK. The actual number may vary depending on the local context and may be higher in areas of socio-economic deprivation. This means that DLD could be roughly seven times more prevalent than autism, and yet most people have never heard of it. 

How is DLD diagnosed?

A comprehensive assessment by a speech and language pathologist (SLP) is crucial in diagnosing DLD. This assessment typically includes standardized tests, observations, and gathering detailed information about the child’s language development and abilities in functional contexts. The SLP will consider the child’s language skills relative to age-related expectations and rule out other potential causes of language difficulties.

How can you support your child at home?

Supporting your child with DLD at home is all about creating a nurturing and responsive environment that fosters language development. 

Here are some strategies that can make a significant difference:

  • Consistent Communication: Make time daily to talk with your child about their day, interests, or stories. Listen actively and respond thoughtfully, creating a two-way dialogue.
  • Read Together: Reading is a powerful tool. Choose books suited to their interests and age. Pause occasionally to ask open-ended questions, expanding on their vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Play Interactive Games: Games like ‘I Spy’, charades, or storytelling games can be both fun and language-enhancing.
  • Limit Screen Time: While educational apps and shows can be beneficial, balance is crucial. Engage in more direct interactions.
  • Create a Language-Rich Environment: Label objects in your home, introduce new words during meals or outings, and describe daily activities.
  • Celebrate Small Achievements: Every new word or improved sentence structure is a milestone. Celebrate it to boost their confidence.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with DLD resources and strategies. There are many online forums, workshops, and communities that offer valuable insights.
  • Collaborate with Professionals: Regularly connect with your child’s speech-language pathologist or therapist. Implementing their recommendations at home can be instrumental.
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Communicate With Confidence

💡Do you feel worried about your child’s future or overwhelmed with their Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) diagnosis and don’t know how to move forward?

Discover the many impacts of DLD and learn how to make simple changes to help your child become more confident and take charge of their own learning.

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FREE DLD Resources

Red Flags Checklist
  • Does your child show signs of a communication disorder? This checklist will highlight areas of concern in communication skill development.
DLD Awareness Infographic
  • DLD Simplified! Increase your understanding of DLD with this easy to follow infographic.Then spread the word and share it with your friends!
Navigating DLD Guide
  • Ready to learn more? Deepen your understanding of DLD and learn how you can best support your child’s language development.

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