The most common childhood difficulty you've never heard of

The Children's speech and language therapy team

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is probably the most common difficulty that most of us have never heard of.   Yet it is much more common than autism, and it affects about 7% of the population – on average that’s approximately 2 children in every classroom.

Children, young people and adults with DLD struggle with spoken language.Imagine you arrive in a foreign country where everyone talks to you and to each other in a language you do not know very well.You will pick out some words that you recognise, but it is really hard to follow instructions, or take part in conversation.Communication takes place so quickly that it is very hard for you to keep up and you might just ‘tune out’ as a result. This is how it feels to have a DLD.

People with DLD may also find it difficult to put their own thoughts into words to tell you what they are thinking or feeling.Many of them get the words muddled up or miss out parts of the sentence.We all find it hard to remember words at times – it’s that ‘tip of the tongue’ feeling you might get occasionally where you know you know the right word but you just can’t think what it is. Children with DLD can struggle to find words all of the time. Others get the sequence of sounds and syllables in long words muddled up – they might say ‘cer-fi-ti-cate’ instead of ‘certificate’, or ‘hop-si-tal’ instead of ‘hospital’.

The world can be a confusing and lonely place if you have DLD.It’s hard to make friends when you can’t keep up with every day conversation.Moreover if you are having trouble with spoken language, it is very likely that you will also find reading and writing problematic too.

Children and young people with DLD will not necessarily ‘grow out of it’.For many, it is a long term condition and can have a huge impact on their learning and achievement in school.It may lead to the child feeling frustrated, anxious and lacking in confidence.

In Gateshead, we have a dedicated team of speech and language therapists who routinely work with children and young people with DLD to help them and their parents cope with DLD.We see children in the most appropriate setting including their homes, in clinics and in schools.We are trying to increase awareness and understanding of DLD so that families and teachers know how to help. We also offer therapy to boost the child’s language skills, improve their communication, promote independence and raise self-esteem.

If you are worried about your child’s speech and/or spoken language skills, you can contact us directly to request an assessment, or you can ask your GP, Health Visitor or school to make a referral.

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