Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) Primary School Teacher Leaflet

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What is DLD?

DLD stands for Developmental Language Disorder. Having 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 which can make it hard to explain. DLD is not caused by emotional difficulties or limited exposure to language.
  • A young person with DLD may also have other difficulties, such as, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia and/ or speech sound difficulties.
  • DLD is not caused by other medical conditions, such as, hearing loss, physical impairment, Autism, severe learning difficulties or brain injuries. However, these children and young people with these difficulties may also have a Language Disorder.

What signs may an adolescent with DLD present with?

  • Difficulty understanding instructions and information
  • Limited vocabulary or difficulties finding words
  • Difficulty understanding puns, idioms, jokes, sarcasm, slang and non-literal language, e.g. Keep an eye on it, give me a hand.
  • Difficulty thinking flexibly
  • Difficulty remembering what has been said
  • Difficulty paying attention in class
  • Difficulty learning to read and de-code texts.
  • Difficulty making friends and maintaining friendships
  • Difficulty understanding and managing emotions
  • Difficulty telling narratives (e.g. saying what they did during the day or what happened at break time)DLD can look different in different individuals and their specific skills may change with time.
  • Remember: Language difficulties may also underlie behavioural difficulties such as low self-esteem, anxiety or misbehaving in class.

How will this affect my students?

  • DLD is a long term condition that can have a big impact on a child’s learning and achievement at school.
  • Children with DLD are at risk of reading difficulties when they reach school age.
  • Sometimes DLD can affect children’s social interaction skills and their ability to make and keep friends.
  • Children with DLD usually learn and understand better through visual and/or practical methods, rather than verbal methods. For example, they may understand a story better if they watched it being acted out, or learnt through multi-sensory experience.

Children with DLD may have strengths in more practical subjects such as Physical Education, Design & Technology and Art.

How can you support your pupils with DLD?

  • Get the child’s attention – say their name before asking questions or giving instruction so they know they have to listen.
  • Use visuals – visual cues (such as gestures and pictures, acting things out) will help them understand and remember information.
  • Use simple sentences and short instructions – keeping the information short and simple will help your child understand it and remember it.
  • Check they have understood instructions or new information.
  • Give the child time – the child may need more time to think, find their words and express themselves.
  • Praise their effort and acknowledge what they have to said, to support their confidence in speaking.
  • Encourage the child to communicate with you however they can, accept gesture, pointing, facial expression.