Children's Speech & Language Therapy in Buckinghamshire

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

What is Language Disorder? What is Developmental Language Disorder?

Some children have difficulties learning and using language, that are not caused by other factors (such as autistic spectrum conditions, hearing impairment, other sensory impairments or more general learning difficulties, although these conditions may co-occur). The language difficulties are also not due to the child learning English as an additional language.

Language disorder refers to children’s language difficulties that impact on communication and or/learning in everyday life, and where past research indicates they are unlikely to catch up spontaneously. If the language disorder is associated with another known condition it is referred to as “Language Disorder associated with X”, where X is the known condition. A child may have a Language Disorder associated with autistic spectrum disorder, for example.

Those children who have more persistent difficulties with language than other areas of learning and development, which are not likely to resolve by 5 years of age, and which are not associated with another condition, can be described as having Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). These children may also develop communication skills in a different way to other children. These children may not make the expected progress despite targeted intervention.

DLD can be hard to understand as there is no known cause. It is not caused by emotional difficulties or by parents not talking enough to their children. Children with DLD can have co-occurring difficulties such as dyslexia, ADHD and speech sound difficulties. On average around two children in every classroom have DLD, but it can be hard to spot. It is therefore often described as the “hidden” disability. DLD affects and impacts on different children in different ways. Some of the things that children with DLD might find difficult include:

  • Following or remembering spoken instructions.
  • Organising ideas so that they are able to verbally express what they want to say.
  • Telling or re-telling a coherent story
  • Finding the right words (vocabulary) to say at the right times
  • Understanding what is read or listened to.
  • Over-literal interpretation, missing the point of what was meant.
  • Talking a lot but engaging poorly in reciprocal conversation.

What is DLD?

This presentation has been put together for Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day, Friday 16th October 2020. It is intended to be used to support the continuing professional development of education staff across Buckinghamshire. Please look out for live webinars to follow.

What is DLD


What is the impact of DLD?

DLD can affect all areas of life: including learning, developing literacy skills, making and keeping friends and having a healthy mental and emotional well-being. Children with DLD may find it difficult to achieve academic success at school. Sometimes difficulties and anxieties linked to DLD can be wrongly interpreted as misbehaviour. DLD is a long-term condition and difficulties can persist into and throughout adulthood.

Want to find out more about DLD?

Go to

Here you will find many articles and video links about DLD.

DLD in the Early Years

It can be difficult to predict Developmental Language Disorder in young children, and it becomes easier to identify if difficulties persist beyond 5 years of age.  Children can also need support in other areas (e.g. social skills, speech difficulties) which are secondary to their language needs.

What might I notice if a pre-school child has a Developmental Language Disorder?

There may be a family history of language and or/literacy difficulties.

These are the Early Years Red Flags for atypical language development set out by researchers for all to be mindful of:

1-2 years:

  • No babbling
  • Not responsive to speech and/or sound.
  • Late talkers with poor understanding of language
  • Minimal or no communication attempts.
  •  Poor use of gesture, e.g. fewer than 16 gestures at 16 months.

2-3 years:

  • Minimal interaction
  • No intent
  • No/few words – not putting two words together
  • Minimal reaction to spoken language
  • Regression or stalling of language development

3-4 years:

  • inconsistent or abnormal interactions
  • 2-3 word utterances at most
  • Difficulties understanding simple instructions
  • Difficulties understanding and using verbs
  • Close relatives cannot understand much of what the child says

4-5 years:

  • May not be able to repeat nonsense words
  • May have words and be talking in sentences, however strangers cannot understand much of what the child says and close relatives cannot understand more than half, even in the absence of speech sound difficulties.

The more severe the difficulties are, and the more areas of language development affected, the more likely they are to persist.

Advice for Settings

Children may be identified as having a Developmental Language Disorder in the Primary or Secondary Phases of Education. The Buckinghamshire Speech and Language Therapy Service provides support at all key stages and for some students this may continue into Further Education Settings.

Here is a more comprehensive list of key indicators or “red flags” that may be seen in junior and secondary aged young people:

  • Difficulties with following instructions, particularly if they are long or contain complex vocabulary
  • Difficulties with understanding and answering questions, including more complex forms e.g. why? How?
  • Difficulties with remembering, recalling and understanding vocabulary and using words in the correct context
  • Struggling to construct spoken and written sentences accurately with correct grammar and meaning. They might use shorter sentences than peers and produce sentences with errors in tense and pronouns.
  • Difficulties with understanding and generating narrative, including sequencing
  • Difficulties using language in social situations e.g. understanding unwritten rules of conversation, understanding non-literal language, idioms and inferencing
  • Word finding difficulties
  • Difficulties understanding concepts – especially Maths and Science words that relate to time, size, comparison and measures.

An extremely helpful training video, especially for education staff, has been produced by Moor House School, a specialist setting for children with DLD. Click this link to access the video entitled: “Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) – What every class teacher needs to know”.


Some mainstream schools in Buckinghamshire have an Additionally Resourced Provision (ARP), which is a specialist placement for children with DLD. Children who attend an ARP benefit from intensive and flexible Speech and Language Therapy and Specialist Teaching on site, according to their needs. They are members of mainstream classes and are taught alongside their peers within the classroom, receiving some teaching by experienced teaching staff. At times, children may receive specialist small group teaching as part of their ARP provision.


In this video entitled “DLD The Consensus Explained”, Professor Dorothy Bishop explains how consensus was achieved and the term “Developmental Language Disorder” was agreed upon.

To promote understanding and use of the term DLD the following video was produced by and organisation called RADLD which stands for “Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder”.

In this enlightening video Lily Farrington, whose DLD was diagnosed at 15 years of age, explains what it is like to have Develomental Language Disorder.

External resources

Talking Point progress checker

Talking Point progress checker

Talking Point progress checker - Click here to go to Talking Point's Progress Checker, where you can check the progress of your child's language development by answering questions about their communication skills.

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Bucks Family Information Service

Bucks Family Information Service

The Buckinghamshire Family Information Service website contains information about services and activities for children and their families in Buckinghamshire.

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Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

Buckinghamshire Healthcare Children and Young People's Services

Click here for information about Buckinghamshire Healthcare's health visiting, school nursing, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy services.

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Last updated: 28 January, 2021