How can we support children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?

Communication is key for one to thrive in life. Yet 8% of children have Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). This represents 1.4 million children and young people in the UK having difficulties speaking clearly, using and understanding language as well as interacting with others. On average 2 students in every class of 30 have DLD. Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) are unfortunately still under-diagnosed.

Developmental Language Disorder
Speech and Language Therapy

Why developing good communication skills at a young age are so important?

The early years is a critical period for children’s development. This is a period of rapid neurological development. Positively supporting young children’s development during this time is essential. Researchers agree that interaction between adult and child and the environment to support it are crucial.

Children with communication difficulties in the early years can have difficulty learning and accessing the curriculum, as well as behavioural difficulties. 81% of children with emotional and behavioural
disorders have significant unidentified communication needs. And good communication, language and literacy at a young age have the highest correlation with outcomes in school at seven years.

How to identify is a children has a Developmental Language Disorder?

If your children doesn’t smile or interact with others, makes only a few sound or gestures (7 – 12 months) or does not put words together to make sentences (1.5 – 3 years), it might be time to check with a specialist. Typically, three years olds can produce clear words and string them together into short sentences. They can tell simple stories, understand instructions and interpret others’ non-verbal communication.

Developmental Language Disorder
Speech and Language Therapy

How to help a children with Developmental Language Disorder?

The amount of oral language input received can have an effect on children’s communication development. Features such as encouragement, positive reinforcement and range of different types of language relate to both language and intellectual development.

Early intervention is a key solution to break the cycle of disadvantage in the early years of a child’s life. Early identification and intervention is supported both in terms of having the greatest impact, but also being the most cost-effective. Given that resolving language difficulties by age five can reduce associated literacy difficulties, the development to test and identify in the early years is encouraging.

How parents can play a key part in supporting children with Developmental Language Disorder?

Parenting is a stronger predictor of children’s progress than any childcare experience. It reduces the risk of social exclusion and a key to achieving the best physical, mental health and well-being outcomes for their children. Parents and families increasingly find support and interventions centred on them. Speech and Language Therapists can empower the parents resulting in an engaging and positive environment for the children.

There is an increasing range of information and support for children’s speech, language and communication available for parents and families. Ensuring this reaches parents and families who most need it is a challenge. That’s why Noala aims to make Speech and Language Therapy mainstream.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, we can only recommend the great resources put together by the I CAN charity.

If you’re a speech and language therapist, our platform includes several research papers about DLD, useful to complete your CPD, as well as a range clinically-approved materials ready to be used to help you save time when preparing a session.