Developmental Language Disorder

Education, and in particular special educational needs education, is a minefield of terms and labels that change frequently. This can be very confusing for school professionals and parents alike! One recent change has been the use of the term Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) to describe children experiencing difficulties understanding or using language.

Around 7% of children are estimated to have a significant difficulty acquiring language and for many this may last throughout childhood. These problems may interfere with everyday communication as well as their education.

Children may have problems with one or more of the key components of language including:
• Understanding spoken language
• Using spoken sentences – in terms of vocabulary and/or grammar
• Knowing how and when to use language appropriately in social situations
• They may have a speech difficulty in addition to their language disorder.

For some children, the language disorder may be associated with a known condition such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, a brain injury or genetic condition such as Down Syndrome, or may be part of a more general learning difficulty. It may also result from learning English as an additional language, having repeated episodes of glue ear or where a child has been living in social disadvantage. Sometimes, however, there are no additional factors of this kind and it may be an isolated difficulty with learning language (previously known as Specific Language Impairment).

At St John’s we identify, monitor and observe any pupil we suspect may have DLD. We can assess their understanding of language using a computer programme called Language Link and put in place language intervention groups to support their learning. All staff are also trained in using Language for Learning strategies and resources in class.

Where the language difficulty is more severe or fails to improve sufficiently with support, we are also able to refer pupils for therapy sessions and advice through the Speech and Language Therapy service.

If you are concerned about your child’s language acquisition, please contact me (Jeannie Newhouse) on 01732 453944 or by email on newhousej@st-johns-sevenoaks.kent.sch.uk.

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