UK academics coin new term for persistent language disorder

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New terminology, developed after a five-year campaign by UK academics, aims to end 200 years of confusion in diagnosing a distressing disorder that affects two children in every UK classroom.

The academics — including Professor Gina Conti-Ramsden from The University of Manchester — hope that Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) will become the consensus term for the condition, which causes difficulties with spoken language, language understanding, communication and reading.

DLD can also have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional and educational development and increase the risk of dyslexia. According to The Manchester Language Study, led by Professor Conti-Ramsden, 40 per cent of those with DLD said that by age 16 they had difficulties interacting with their peers with half experiencing bullying during their childhood. Other research has found teenagers with DLD were more than twice as likely as their typically developing peers to report symptoms of depression. Children affected are often mistaken as being inattentive, having more general learning difficulties or exhibiting poor behaviour.

Without diagnosis and specialist support, the impacts of DLD can last into adulthood by increasing the risk of unemployment and reducing the opportunity to be independent.

The news terminology follows Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder (RSDLD) — formerly Raising Awareness of Language Learning Impairments (RALLI) — a five-year campaign to highlight the condition, which is thought to affect more than half a million people globally.

It also follows earlier research that found there is poor public awareness of the condition relative to its frequency and severity.

Conti-Ramsden, who is Professor of Child Language and Learning and Director of the Manchester Language Study, said:

Many children and young people with language difficulties struggle in many aspects of their life including school, friendships and how they think about themselves. 

They are often mistaken as being “naughty”, showing poor behaviour or “not trying hard enough” when they don’t understand what is said to them. Many labels have been used to refer to these individuals and this has created confusion.

Developmental Language Disorders (DLD) is the new streamlined term that will help us diagnose and support children and young people with this common but hidden condition.

Sophie (37) said:

I was diagnosed with DLD when I was young. I’ve had great support from my parents, and specialist schooling and support including from speech and language therapists, so I have been able to succeed in more than I would ever expect. But, it is always there in my life, and something I have to find strategies to get by. I wish I could do things that other people could do, and take things in and remember things when told the first time. Having DLD does get me down. It causes me to have anxiety and low self-esteem.

By increasing awareness and recognition of DLD, the team aim to improve access to specialist speech and language therapy and support for those affected. For more information see the short video at the top of this story.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Edwin Arenas on

    Chiildren who are multiply disabled require a multisensory educational program which focuses on all areas of learning disabilities not just one.

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