Diagnosing DLD: Teachers urged to #thinklanguage

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Thousands of UK children who have trouble learning at school or communicating with others will have an undiagnosed developmental language disorder (DLD).

The message is going out to schools ahead of the fifth annual Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day on Friday (October 15).

DLD is a neurodevelopmental condition and is often hidden. Those with DLD can have significant difficulty learning, understanding and using spoken language. In some studies, as many as one in 14 children have shown symptoms.

People with DLD make more errors or use simpler sentences or even have trouble organising a conversation. DLD emerges in early childhood but the problems are not always obvious to the non-specialist.

Children with DLD also often struggle with reading, spelling, and writing and their literacy and academic attainment can suffer, as can their social relationships.

Organised by RADLD – Raising Awareness of DLD – the global awareness day is asking teachers to #thinklanguage and #thinkdld. The goal is to increase the early identification and support for students at school.

Although DLD is a common condition affecting many areas of life, children are unlikely to receive access to services.

Shelbi, a young adult with DLD, explained: “It wasn’t just a ‘delay’ for me and I never ‘out-grew’ or ‘caught up’. Just like many people, my DLD was never identified nor were my difficulties further investigated. DLD is a life condition – early identification and support is key to supporting those with DLD to manage everyday life.”

Sam, a teacher supporting the campaign, advises: “If teachers are repeatedly saying things like 'they just don't listen', then perhaps children need a language assessment. I would like teachers to realise that there is a high probability that somebody in their class has DLD and that these students are working really hard to understand everything.”

A RADLD factsheet (2021) adds: “DLD is a diagnosis based on behaviours. The primary behaviors to consider are how well the person learns, understands, and uses spoken and written language.”

Jessica, a 12-year-old student with DLD, added: “I would like my teachers to know that I may lose focus more easily than others and some tasks may take longer.

“If I’m ever picked on to speak up in class, I have trouble finding words from my head, so I may stutter a lot or just keep quiet.”

The RADLD website offers a range of teacher kits, posters, and factsheets.


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