Speech Pathology Australia is driving a campaign in Australia to shed light on a hidden condition that affects on average two children in every classroom. Developmental Language Disorder is a condition that causes difficulties with speech, language understanding, communication, and reading (with an associated high risk of dyslexia).
“Raising awareness of DLD is crucial,” said Gaenor Dixon, National President of Speech Pathology Australia.
Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is now the accepted term for language difficulties where the language disorder has no other differentiating or influencing condition (e.g. the absence of Autism, Down Syndrome, Fragile X, etc.).
The term DLD describes children who are likely to have a language problem that endures into middle childhood and beyond; without diagnosis and specialist support this condition has a significant impact on their everyday social interactions and schooling.
“DLD has in the past been referred to as ‘specific language impairment’, ‘language disorder’, ‘developmental language impairment’, ‘developmental language disorder’, or some other name, which has often caused confusion,” added Ms Dixon.
“DLD tends to run in families. The cause for this condition is unknown, but there is likely a genetic component.
“By introducing of an internationally agreed term in 2017 and with increasing awareness and recognition of DLD, children affected should be able to access the speech pathology support they need.”
The complexity of DLD means that it can have a serious and long-term impact on development. Research indicates that by age 16, around 40 per cent of those with DLD have difficulties interacting with their peers, with half experiencing bullying during their childhood, compared to less than 25 per cent of typically-developing teenagers.
Research has also found teenagers with DLD are more than twice as likely to report symptoms of depression, as compared to their peers. Without diagnosis and specialist support, the impacts of DLD can last into adulthood, increase the risk of unemployment, and reduce the opportunity to be independent.
DLD often results in significant difficulties with reading, writing and spelling. This means that sometimes students with an underlying DLD may be labelled with dyslexia, when the DLD has not been identified.
Even where a child can read aloud accurately, there are often problems with understanding what has been read. These problems are frequently overlooked, and this failure to comprehend can be misinterpreted by teachers as naughtiness or inattention, as most teachers are not taught about DLD in their training.
Support from speech pathologists can make a real difference.
Friday 19 October is International Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day. The day is being internationally observed.