Friday 20th October 2023 is International Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day

Friday 20th October 2023 is International Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day

What is Developmental Language Disorder?

Developmental Language Disorder, or DLD, is an invisible and lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that affects the development of spoken and written language, and social and academic development. People with DLD experience language difficulties in the absence of any known biomedical condition and is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 14 people (7%) – that’s 2 students in every class!

People with DLD have difficulties with language and not with intelligence. While their primary area of difficulty is understanding and/or using language, people with DLD might have co-occurring conditions, such as learning difficulties, ADHD, dyslexia, maths disabilities or mental health issues.

What causes DLD?

DLD has a genetic and biological basis, but there is no known single cause of DLD. DLD is not caused by how parents interact with their children, or by speaking more than 1 language. DLD can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of nationality, culture, or language.

How can you recognise DLD?

People with DLD have difficulty talking and/or understanding language.

Children with DLD might:

  • find it hard to follow instructions, answer questions or understand words and concepts
  • have difficult paying attention
  • struggle to remember what they have been told, or what they’ve read
  • have difficulties learning to read and write
  • struggle to find the right words to express their thoughts and ideas
  • have difficulty organising words and phrases correctly in a spoken sentence
  • have trouble engaging in conversation, recounting events, or telling stories

People with DLD do not look any different from their peers. It is an invisible disability and can be hard to recognise.

What supports are available to people with DLD?

When provided with high quality supports and accommodations, individuals with DLD can achieve social, academic, and professional success. A diagnosis is made by a speech pathologist, however a person with DLD may need support from others, including educators, occupational therapists, psychologists, families, friends, and employers.

How can you support students with DLD in a primary and secondary school setting?

Participants and alumni of the Masterclass Series will be pleased know that so many of the high impact teaching strategies and evidence-based teaching approaches that we discuss in the course are part of the best-practice toolkit for supporting students with DLD in both primary and secondary school settings. Current guidance for best practice includes:

1. Pre-teach key vocabulary.

  • Pre-load students with key vocabulary prior to a lesson, topic, or theme.
  • When pre-teaching vocabulary, make sure that you discuss the pronunciation of words, talk about the syllables, and sounds in words and ask students to practice saying the words.
  • Discuss the meaning of words by providing simple definitions and synonyms, provide and discuss examples and non-examples of the word or concept, and use the word in sentences.

2. Explicitly and systematically teach vocabulary.

  • Support the development of vocabulary breadth and depth, by systematically and explicitly teaching Tier 2 vocabulary and vocabulary needed for instruction, such as ‘compare’ or ‘analyse’.
  • Like when pre-teaching topic vocabulary, when teaching Tier 2 and instructional vocabulary, include multiple opportunities for students to hear and say the word, talk about the sound properties of the word (syllables, phonemes), provide examples and non-examples of the word, and use the word in the context of sentences.

3. Provide systematic and explicit grammar instruction to support comprehension and expression.

  • Teach students how to construct and expand simple sentences, with a focus on the meaning of each part of the sentence (e.g., the subject of the sentence tells us who or what the sentence is about; the verb in the sentence tells us what the who or what is doing; the adverb tells us how something was done).
  • Explicitly teach sentence combining using coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, again with a focus on the meaning or the “jobs” that the conjunctions are doing in the sentence. For example, “because links the reason”.
  • Use a visual system, such as colour or shape coding to support students’ understanding of sentence constituents and make spoken sentences visual.

4. Support working memory.

  • Reduce cognitive load by keeping instructions and spoken sentences simple.
  • Activate prior knowledge and make links to long term memory.
  • Support retrieval through regular (weekly, fortnightly, monthly) reviews.
  • Teach content in chunks, interspersed with regular retrieval practice and checks for understanding.

5. Support processing of information.

  • Model how to complete tasks, and gradually release responsibility to students by using an I Do, We Do, You Do model of instruction.
  • Allow plenty of time for students to respond. Using pair-shares with elaborative questioning and non-volunteers also allows students the opportunity to practice answering the questions in a supported way.
  • Break tasks into smaller steps.
  • Use visual and written supports whenever possible.
  • Use graphic organisers to help students organise new information and make links with prior learning.

For further information on DLD, see the following recommended links: