Four Essential Facts to Understand About Developmental Language Disorder
Have you heard of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?
“We have several research studies showing that parents and teachers are rarely aware of the characteristics of DLD,” says Dr. Tiffany Hogan in Episode 8 of our All For Literacy Podcast, where host Dr. Liz Brooke sits down with key industry experts to discuss literacy and beyond.
And with only 20% of children with DLD being identified, Hogan is on a mission to improve awareness about it.
In an appearance on the All for Literacy Podcast, Hogan attempts to unravel DLD—a condition characterized by a person having difficulty using or understanding language. She explores this complex diagnosis, including hallmark indications, best practices for screenings and interventions, and available resources.
The more educators, parents, and administrators who understand DLD, the more children can be properly screened and receive life-changing support. Whether or not you are familiar with the disorder and in need of a refresher or learning about DLD for the first time, here are four essential facts to understand about Developmental Language Disorder.
1.) DLD is a neurodiversity
The first thing to understand about DLD is that it is a type of neurodiversity, and is not related to intelligence or effort in the classroom. Like autism or dyslexia, DLD stems from the way a brain is wired. Specifically, it’s “related to how the brain processes the language that is heard in the ambient environment,” Hogan says.
Some may view children with undiagnosed DLD as lazy or lacking effort in the classroom, but that is not the case. “Children with DLD are actually working double or triple time as hard to understand language as their typically developing peers,” Hogan says. “Yet, at the same time, they can often receive the message that they’re just not working hard enough.”
DLD is a type of neurodiversity and must be evaluated and treated as such.
2.) DLD is more common than you think
“DLD affects about one in 14 children,” Hogan says. “That’s about two children per classroom statistically speaking.” But, while prevalent, the lack of a common understanding or label means DLD often goes unnoticed or misidentified. The condition is five times more prevalent than autism but often goes unrecognized.
“A big problem with DLD is that it’s hidden because there have been so many different labels used for DLD. That’s been the biggest barrier to building awareness,” Hogan says. A few other terms the disorder has been called include specific language impairment, language disorder, and language delay. Finally, having a centralized label and diagnostic criteria makes it easier to identify the condition and understand how many children it affects, but many parents, educators, and others are still unfamiliar with DLD.
Help spread awareness of DLD by sending this blog post to a colleague and by listening to the podcast episode at All for Literacy.
3.) It’s difficult to identify DLD on characteristics alone
Due to the complex nuances of both language and DLD, its difficult to identify DLD in children solely on easily observable characteristics.
“Children with DLD will often choose to say words they know, and they’ll also choose to use grammatical structures they know,” Hogan says. “So, they really do blend quite a bit.” While a child may have DLD, they might hide their difficulties behind the knowledge of language that they do have and are comfortable using.
Identifying DLD becomes even more complicated after the child reaches kindergarten. “Children get thousands of words in their vocabulary at that time,” Hogan explains, meaning students have even more ability to mask their neurodiversity.
4.) DLD does not require a speech-language pathologist to identify
Identifying and supporting children with DLD is not just a job for a speech-language pathologist. “I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice [by] siloing the support for [DLD] only [from] speech-language pathologists,” Hogan says. She explains the best way to identify and support these children is through the systems they already live in.
“[Looking for DLD] can be part of the screening system that’s in place already for early reading difficulties,” Hogan says. Running routine, required screenings at school is likely to identify more children with DLD than making it a requirement for a child to see a speech-language pathologist for diagnosis.
While it is a nuanced condition, it is possible for schools to effectively and efficiently identify children with DLD with the right early screening processes in place. Although treatment services for DLD are typically provided or overseen by a licensed speech-language pathologist, tailored support in the classroom can also help. A holistic approach to DLD is often the most effective.
The Importance of DLD Awareness
“We’re really trying to work to improve awareness about DLD so these children don’t fail,” Hogan says.
DLD is one of the most common developmental disorders and must be understood and recognized to minimize its effects on children moving forward. The impact of undiagnosed DLD can persist into adulthood, and thus creating measures to properly diagnose and support those with DLD is critical.
Tune in to Episode 8 of the All for Literacy Podcast with Dr. Tiffany Hogan to better understand the assessment and implications associated with Developmental Language Disorder.