DLD: What you need to know

Developmental Language Disorder

Developmental language disorder is a communication disorder which is characterised by difficulty in understanding or using language. Children with DLD are unable to meet the language developmental milestones for their age. DLD includes a combination of hearing, speech and cognitive impairments. 

DLD can be receptive, expressive, or a combination of both. A receptive language deficit is when a child has difficulty understanding language while expressive language disorder happens when a child has difficulty using language to communicate.  

Causes and risk factors

Causes and risk factors of DLD are largely unknown however it is most commonly associated with other conditions such as hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities, Autism, psychosocial issues and premature birth.

A child is most likely to have DLD if they have a family history of speech-language disorders or parents with lower educational background. In addition to that as per research boys are more likely to suffer from DLD in comparison to girls. 

Signs and symptoms

A child with DLD would not reach language milestones at the typical age. Signs and symptoms might vary for every child however some common symptoms include:

  • Not babbling by 15 months. 
  • Not talking by 2 years.
  • Difficulty in developing new vocabulary.
  • Difficulty in following directions.
  • Language used is immature for a child’s age.
  • Difficulty in comprehending and answering questions.
  • Difficulty in using words together to form sentences.
  • Poor pronunciation or articulation. 
  • Trouble with reading and writing.

The aforementioned signs might be representative of DLD however it is important to establish that not all children have the same language skills, communication, or learning abilities.


The treatment for language disorder entails speech and language therapy. An SLP usually carries out comprehensive assessments and evaluations in order to identify language development and areas of difficulty for a child and design a suitable treatment plan. The treatment plan usually depends on a child’s age and severity of the symptoms. 

What can I do at home?

Follow these tips to encourage language development in your child:

  • Respond to your baby’s babbling.
  • Sing or talk to your baby. 
  • Read aloud to your child.
  • Use fun activities or games to help the child to learn more.
  • Use visuals aids to make understanding easier  (e.g. pictures, videos, gestures).
  • Introduce and explain new vocabulary.
  • Use simple language whilst playing with your child.
  • Ask the teacher about class activities in advance to help prepare your child for discussions in advance.
  • Discuss your child’s situation at their school to avoid bullying.
  • Discuss your child’s situation with their teachers and with family members. 

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