Developmental Language Disorder

This Friday October 20th you may see some buildings lightening in purple and wonder why. The reason? Well, purple is the global colour associated with the most common childhood disorder you have probably never heard of. The goal of this campaign us to change all that and highlight International Developmental Language Disorder Day which falls on the 20th October.

Learning to talk is easy for most children but for some, it can be tricky. Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is a hidden but common condition that is estimated to affect about two students in every class of 30. DLD is as common as dyslexia and more common than autism, yet many people are unaware of it. Thus, the description of it as the most common childhood condition you’ve probably never heard of.

DLD is a persisting difficulty with understanding and/or using spoken language. Children with DLD will be slower than other children to develop vocabulary and long sentences, even though they typically have average intelligence and lots of language learning opportunities.

The cause of DLD is not known but we do know it is not caused by

  • emotional difficulties
  • medical conditions
  • autism
  • limited exposure to language.

People with autism may also find language difficult but they do not have DLD. For children with DLD who speak more than one language, both/all of their languages will be affected. A child with DLD may have other challenges also, such as dyslexia, speech sound difficulties and/or Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Children with DLD will all be different. Some children with DLD will struggle with:

  • Putting the words together to say what they want to say
  • Listening, understanding, following instructions or remembering what has been said
  • Understanding or using vocabulary/Learning new words
  • Telling a story
  • Remembering words, even if they know it very well
  • Understanding jokes or sarcasm.

Your child may appear to withdraw at school, can seem anxious or ‘act out’ due to not understanding or becoming frustrated.

There are many ways of supporting your child with DLD. A speech and language therapist can assess language skills, diagnose DLD as appropriate and provide support. Support from professionals including speech and language therapists (SLTs) and teachers can make a significant difference to the lives of children with DLD and they can go on to achieve success academically and socially.

Parents know their children’s strengths and needs better than anyone. If you have any concerns around your child’s language development and would like further information or advice, please contact your local HSE speech and language therapist at your nearest primary care centre.

This article was contributed by the Primary Care Speech & Language Therapy Team from HSE Midwest Community Health Care on behalf of Parenting Limerick.