Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) | What Every Family Needs to Know
Developmental Language Disorder or DLD affects 2 children in every Australian classroom. Imagine making a new friend, learning a new subject, or negotiating yourself out of a tough spot if your ability to use or understand language were a life-long challenge.
Families Magazine is very proud to support inclusivity and diversity in all that we do which is why we are shining a light on this hidden but common lifelong condition.
You may have noticed your child is struggling to communicate their thoughts or is getting frustrated trying to learn to read. These can be signs of DLD or just normal stages in a child’s development. The important thing is not to panic and to be informed about what the cause may be.
Remember, each child is different and you should always speak with a health professional regarding any matter causing you concern regarding your child’s health and development.
What is DLD?
You’ve probably heard about autism and dyslexia but what about DLD?
DLD causes difficulties with speaking and understanding for no known reason. There are serious and long-term impacts, as it puts children at greater risk of failing at school and struggling with mental health and future employment. The biggest challenge is you can’t tell by looking at a person that they have DLD and therefore, they often get overlooked for support.
People with DLD can be as different as you and I. However, it is important to know that with the right supports, people with DLD can and do thrive!
Know the facts about DLD
- DLD is a brain difference that makes talking and listening difficult. It is 50 times more prevalent than hearing impairment and five times more prevalent than autism. (McGregor, 2020)
- The disability affects 7.5% of grade 1 children. Teachers, need to know about this hidden but common disability because, in a class of 30, two children will have DLD (Norbury et al., 2016)
- People with DLD are six times more likely to have reading difficulties and four times more likely to struggle with math. (Young et al., 2002)
- Developmental Language Disorder commonly co-occurs with other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD, Developmental Coordination Disorder, dyslexia, and dyscalculia. (Cleaton & Kirby, 2018)
- The condition tends to run in families. Twin studies indicate a strong genetic influence on DLD, but this seems to reflect the combined impact of many genes, rather than a specific mutation (Bishop, 2006). The popular view the disability is caused by parents who don’t talk to their children has no evidence-based support.
What are the signs of DLD in a child?
How does a diagnosis of a child with Developmental Language Disorder occur? Often the process begins when a caring adult shares concerns about a child’s ability to communicate or notices behaviors that could be signs of poor communication such as acting out or failing in the classroom. A number of red flags in the child’s speech and language development can trigger these concerns. The next step is to seek an evaluation from a speech pathologist.
Parker’s journey to a DLD diagnosis
Where can I go for support if I suspect my child has DLD?
Queensland is fortunate to have a network of supports for people with DLD at a level not always seen in other States and Territories of Australia. Here’s an overview of the peak bodies working in the DLD space locally and around the world.
Speech Pathology Australia
If you suspect your child may have DLD your first stop should be to see a speech pathologist. Speech Pathology Australia is the national peak body for the speech pathology profession in Australia. Speech pathologists are university trained allied health professionals with expertise in the assessment and treatment of communication difficulties.
Speech Pathology Australia produced the Communication Milestones Kit to provide information for parents and carers about the role of speech pathologists. It also assists parents and carers to find a speech pathologist if they are unsure about whether their child is having difficulty with his or her speech, language, and communication. The kit includes a series of A4-sized downloadable information sheets and an A3-sized poster that outline the talking and understanding milestones for children aged 1-5 years.
The information sheets and poster outline how early childhood educators and speech pathologists can work together to ensure that children reach these milestones within the expected timeframes. The information sheets are a useful tool to start a conversation about a child who may be having difficulty with their speech, language, and communication.
Head to the Speech Pathology Australia website to search for a certified practising speech pathologist near you. Speech Pathologists can run a number of assessments to better understand your child’s individual needs.
The DLD Project
The DLD Project is an impact focussed, innovative social enterprise founded to elevate awareness and understanding of DLD in Australia. Extensive and evolving research confirms what works best for people with DLD but unfortunately, these learnings and insights sit in the hands of a few. The DLD Project, addresses these roadblocks by providing an online platform that distributes evidence-based, DLD specific information, resources, and training for families, educators, and therapists. You can access The DLD Project website here.
Speech & Language Developmental Australia
Speech & Language Development Australia (SALDA) is based in Brisbane supporting and advocating for the needs of children and young people with speech, language, and related disorders. SALDA provides holistic, innovative, and effective therapy, education, and support services. These services include The Glenleighden School in Fig Tree Pocket and the School Support Service which is an outreach service to Queensland schools.
Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder (RADLD)
RADLD is a global volunteer movement of health professionals, educators, and families working to raise awareness of the disability globally. On their website you will find resources that explain what DLD is, the impact it can have, how to get help, and how to raise awareness. Head to the RADLD website for more information.
DLD Awareness Day
Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day, now in its fifth year, is celebrated annually around the world with more than 40 countries involved in 2020.
Friday 15 of October 2021 is DLD Awareness Day and this year’s campaign is asking teachers to #ThinkLanguage #ThinkDLD. The goal is to increase the early identification of DLD and support for students at school.
One teacher can change a student’s life by spotting their challenges with language. The DLD Project is asking teachers to keep an eye out, and whenever they see a student struggling with learning, #ThinkLanguage #ThinkDLD.
Show your support on DLD Awareness Day
Increased awareness of Developmental Language Disorder can reduce social stigmatisation and improve access to specialist support services. Supporting DLD Awareness Day can be as simple as:
- visiting the RADLD social media channels and sharing this year’s #ThinkLanguage #ThinkDLD awareness video with your networks
- changing your social media profile photo to feature the DLD Awareness Day frame
- holding an awareness day event at your school, workplace, or in the community and there are a number of materials including downloadable posters and fact sheets available at the RADLD website
RADLD is also working to have landmarks around the world light up in purple and yellow, the official awareness day colours.
What other conditions cause issues with communication?
There are so many different reasons why a child may be having difficulties with communication. It is important to see a paediatrician or speech pathologist as soon as possible to work through any concerns. Here are two other additional conditions which can contribute to communication challenges in children:
Speech delay can come in various forms and degrees. When starting Prep, a significant speech delay impacts on children’s academic learning and in particular, their literacy skills. Learn more here.
We’ve all heard about Autism over recent years but how can you support a child with Autism to make friends. In this post, we explore practical ways to help children with Autism to build relationships. You may also like to check out our list of 10 indoor activities for kids on the Autism Spectrum.
Remember to celebrate your child’s individual abilities
Every child is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses. A child with a disability is just as capable of leading a full and rewarding life with the right supports in place.
Photo credit: Thank you to João Francisco and The Glenleighden School for sharing images in this story with us.