Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day

Friday the 16th of October (2020) is Developmental Language Disorder (or DLD) Awareness Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness about the prevalence of DLD, the challenges experienced by those with DLD, and how the community can best support individuals who have DLD.

DLD Awareness Day was initially launched in 2017 by the Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder (RADLD) organisation (, and has grown in recognition each year. 


Our Brisbane Northside Speech Pathologists have written this blog explaining what DLD is, and answering common questions we receive about a diagnosis of DLD.  


What is DLD? 


Developmental Language Disorder or DLD is the new term that replaces Specific Language Impairment or SLI. DLD is diagnosed when a child presents with significant difficulties developing oral language on their own, when there is no obvious reason for this difficulty.

Recent research indicates that 1 in 14 children present with DLD. 


Children with a diagnosis of DLD experience some level of difficulty with all aspects of communication across speaking, listening, reading and writing. 


This can include: 

  • Difficulties understanding what people say to them,
  • Difficulty learning new information – particularly in a group or classroom setting,
  • Difficulties explaining their ideas and feelings in a clear way,
  • Using simple and/or incorrect vocabulary,
  • Presence of grammatical errors and/or dropping words from a sentence,
  • Difficulty understanding what they are reading (even if they are reading the words correctly),
  • Difficulty writing (even if they are able to spell the words),
  • Difficulties answering questions – in particular critical thinking questions such as ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘what if’,
  • Taking extra time to start talking and/or writing,
  • Asking for you to repeat instructions and/or information.

These difficulties with language can have an impact on the child’s communication, social skills, academic performance and quality of life. 


What causes DLD? 


Currently, there is no known cause for DLD and it can occur in individuals from a variety of backgrounds and cultures; and can be identified in individuals who speak one or multiple languages. Research indicates that DLD may run in families, and children are more likely to be diagnosed with DLD if there is a family history of language difficulties/communication disorders. 


Does DLD impact upon intelligence? 


DLD is a disorder of language, not cognitive skills – therefore, DLD does not cause intellectual difficulties or impairments; and children with DLD are often as intelligent as their peers. Children with DLD frequently experience challenges to their learning and academic performance due to the fact that classroom learning is frequently delivered through the use of language (spoken and written). With the appropriate supports/adjustments and collaboration between teachers, parents and the child’s therapeutic support team, children with DLD can overcome the language barrier and access learning.   


Can DLD be cured? 


Despite having the term ‘developmental’ within the diagnosis, children do not ‘grow out’ of DLD and their difficulties will likely persist into adulthood. DLD cannot be cured as it stems from difficulties with the foundational components of language. However, support from a team of professionals, such as learning support staff, Guidance Officers, and Speech Pathologists, can help the child develop the spoken and written language skills necessary for everyday life. 


How can I help a child with DLD? 


There are a number of ways family members and support staff can help a child with DLD. The first step is to access Speech Pathology services that can offer assessment and collaborative intervention, to help you understand the child’s language profile and support the development of their language skills. 


The following strategies can be used to support the child to understand and respond to their environment: 

  • Time: give the child additional time to understand directions/questions, and extra time to communicate their idea, 
  • Visuals: use visual supports, such as pictures, drawings, actions, gesture and modelling, to support spoken communication, 
  • Simplify Communication: when providing instructions and new information, use shorter sentences with clear/explicit vocabulary, and try to avoid metaphors or idioms, 
  • Break it up: break up large/complex instructions and tasks into smaller, specific steps for the child to follow, 
  • Vocabulary Teaching: when introducing new words to the child, provide a clear definition using words the child understands; practise saying the word with the child and provide multiple examples that relate to the child; if possible, teach relevant vocabulary before the child needs to understand/apply it (i.e. before learning about the topic in class). 


If you are concerned about your child’s language development, or would like to seek further information regarding Developmental Language Disorder – please don’t hesitate to get in contact via email ([email protected]), phone (07 3265 4495).

Thida Hantun

Speech Pathologist