Heads Up 25 October 2019


WE2 An empowering curriculum

Supporting learners with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is more common than autism, is seen more commonly in girls than boys and affects around two children in every primary classroom, but despite this, it is not widely known about.

Previously known as Specific Language Disorder (SLD) or Specific Language Impairment (SLI), DLD means that a child has significant, on-going difficulties understanding and/or using spoken language.

A young person with DLD may also have other difficulties such as; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and / or speech sound difficulties.

Language disorders can also be associated with other medical conditions such as ASC (Autistic Spectrum Condition), genetic conditions (e.g. Down Syndrome), sensorineural hearing loss, physical impairment, severe learning difficulties or brain injuries. 

There are many difficulties that can be experienced as part of having DLD such as:

  • paying attention in class
  • understanding instructions and new information
  • remembering what has been said
  • limited vocabulary and finding their words
  • telling narratives
  • putting their thoughts into words - their meaning may be lost or unclear
  • joining in and social skills
  • understanding and managing emotions

This is not an exhaustive list, as DLD can manifest itself in different ways depending on the individual and their specific needs may change with time.

How do I support a young person with DLD?

  • Remember your universal strategies!
  • Ensure there is a Communication Friendly Environment which takes into account visual support systems, the teacher’s delivery and the environment of the school.
  • Grab their attention — say their name before asking questions or giving instructions so they know they have to listen.
  • Visual cues (demonstration, gesture and pictures such as Widgit) will help them understand and remember information.
  • Use simple sentences and short instructions. Check they have understood instructions or new information.
  • Give the young person more time to think, find their words and express themselves.
  • Praise their effort and acknowledge what they have said, to support their confidence in speaking.
  • Encourage them to communicate with you however they can, accept gesture and facial expressions.                                             

If you would like further information about strategies or have any concerns about a young person in your school, please contact the Area Manager for your area using the contacts below:

North STS: Louise Hunt or Paul Fellows – Tel: 01926 413777

East STS: Claire Batchelor – Tel: 01788 338130

South STS: Tammy Mason – Tel: 01926 476600


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