Better Care

What is Developmental Language Disorder?

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) means that you have significant, on-going difficulties understanding and/or using spoken language, in all the languages you use. DLD was previously known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI).

There is no known cause of DLD and that can make it hard to explain. DLD is not caused by emotional difficulties or limited exposure to language.

DLD is not caused by other medical conditions such as hearing loss, physical impairment, Autism, severe learning difficulties, or brain injuries.
However, children and young people with these difficulties may also have a language disorder.

Please click here to visit the DLD YouTube account.

DLD Family

What signs may a child/young person with DLD show?

  1. They may not talk as much and find it difficult to express themselves verbally.
  2. Their language may sound immature for their age.
  3. They may struggle to find words or to use varied vocabulary.
  4. They may not understand, or remember, what has been said.
  5. Older children may have difficulties reading and using written language
Remember: Language difficulties may also underlie behaviour issues such as anxiety or misbehaving in class

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


Useful Websites

  • - Useful information as well as a progress checker if you are concerned about your child’s development.
  • - Support and information for children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs and their families.
  • - Free books to download and lots of other free information as well as resources you can buy.
  • - provide ideas, top tips and suggestions for working on all sorts of different speech and language difficulties.
  • - Information about developing language.
  • DLD and me - DLD information and self-advocacy resources for children and families with DLD.

How will this affect my child?

  1. DLD is a long term condition that can have a big impact on a child/young person’s learning and achievement at school.
  2. Children with DLD are at risk of reading difficulties when they reach school age.
  3. Sometimes DLD can affect children’s social interaction skills and their ability to make and keep friends.
  4. Children with DLD often learn and understand better through visual and /or practical methods, rather than verbal methods. For example they would understand a story better if they watched it being acted out and drew it rather than being told verbally.

How can you support your child at home?

  1. Get your child’s attention – say their name before you want them to listen eg. “Ahmed (then give your instruction/comment)”
  2. Ensure your child can see your face to support their attention and listening, getting down to your child’s level can also help.
  3. Use simple language and repeat if necessary to support memory and provide as many opportunities for them to hear, see and use words
  4. Talk calmly and slowly to support their ability to process words
  5. Give your child more time to respond to help them process information
  6. Use symbols – provide a picture and/or use gestures to represent new words or concepts to support their understanding visually. Visual timetables can help structure their day.
  7. Encourage your child to communicate with you however they can, accept gesture, pointing, facial expression.
    Remember, communication is more than just talking!
  8.  Check they have understood instructions or new information. You can do this by asking them to repeat back to you what you have told them.
  9.  Help them learn skills to join in with other children. For example, playing games at home to support turn taking and listening to others.
  10. Give specific instructions – e.g. “put X in the big bowl”
  11. Set up ‘role play’ opportunities to practise using language in different contexts, e.g. set up a ‘shop’ where the child has to practise remembering what they need to ask for and asking for the right thing or a ‘café’ where the child might practise asking for/ordering their own meal.

Maximising your child’s communication potential

There are several ways you can encourage and make it easier for your child to communicate:

  • Share with family and friends what Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) means and show them the RADLD video;
  • Tell others how your child communicates – share your child’s communication strengths and what they find difficult;
  • Ensure that your child is given plenty of time and patience by everyone to get their message across and be heard;
  • Use any specific strategies suggested by your Speech and Language Therapist such as Core Vocabulary therapy approach to support speech clarity or Shape Coding activities to support spoken and written language skills
  • For older children (key stage 2 and above) – talk with your child about what helps them, eg. giving them time, breaking down longer information/instructions, repeating information or explaining new words.  Writing/drawing these strategies on a bookmark or key-ring can support others in knowing how to help will support your child’s independence and confidence and promote their self-advocacy skills.

Click here to download a leaflet for parents and carers of primary school-age children.


The role of speech and language therapy

With their knowledge and expertise in speech, language and communication, Speech and Language Therapists have a crucial role to play in the diagnosis and management of DLD. This includes providing direct therapy to people with DLD who need it, tailored to their individual needs.

It also includes supporting their families and through multidisciplinary team working, supporting professionals who work with people with DLD to recognise and respond appropriately to their difficulties by:

  • Identifying and diagnosing DLD and those at risk of it.
  • Devising and delivering needs-led programmes of individual or small group therapy.
  • Overseeing therapy programmes delivered by others, including ensuring that individuals are adequately trained and supported and progress is regularly monitored.
  • Supporting people with DLD, their families, and those who work with them. This includes understanding their diagnosis and how it can impact their lives, so they can respond appropriately and advocate for themselves.
  • Supporting schools to integrate strategies into the curriculum in order to foster children’s language learning and use.

Comprehensive assessments are needed to identify how DLD is affecting a child or young person’s communication, social participation, wellbeing and learning. These assessments are carried out in collaboration with the child/young person, their family, and their education setting and will include formal scored assessments as well as liaison, observation, and 1:1 work.


Regular monitoring of progress and modifications to management is required to identify needs at each stage in development, and particularly at transition points – for example from nursery to primary school, from primary to secondary school and from secondary to post – 16 provision.

The aim of speech and language therapy is to:

  • Develop the language abilities of people with DLD to their maximum potential.
  • Teach people with DLD and those around them strategies to reduce the impact of their difficulties on communication and their access to education, employment, public services and social activities.
  • Speech and Language Therapy helps people with DLD to maximise their language potential. This helps to reduce some of the negative consequences of their disorder.

Video - Language Needs at School Age