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Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is not well known among the general public but is actually relatively common. DLD affects approximately 7% of the population, which is approximately 2 children in every class of 30 and approximately 5 times more common than Autism. It is often missed due to lack of understanding and the children/young people using strategies that can hide/mask the challenges they experience.

RADLD (Raising Awareness of DLD) has lots of helpful videos about DLD on their YouTube Channel. This ‘Raising Awareness of DLD’ video is aimed at teachers but explains several ways that DLD can affect a child/young person in a helpful way.

DLD is part of a natural difference in the way the brain has developed. This leads to different development of language skills, including understanding and processing language and using language. These differences can impact all aspects of life both at home and school.

  • Children can have DLD alongside other neurodivergent neuro-types, e.g. Dyslexia, ADHD, hearing loss – ADD Dyspraxia and speech sound differences. You can find out more about ADHD and Dyslexia in our What is neurodiversity? page section.
  • DLD cannot co-occur with some other bio-medical conditions, including Autism, and genetic conditions (e.g. Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy).
  • There is no known cause for DLD. DLD can run in families and some genetic links have been found. However, this is not fully understood yet.
  • DLD was previously known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI).
  • It affects approximately two children in every classroom.

While having DLD can be challenging, it can also give the child/young person other significant strengths and talents, such as being creative, good at problem solving and excellent ‘big picture thinkers’.

DLD 123 Information sheet

This information sheet is a helpful summary of DLD by RADLD.

Download information sheet

Possible signs of DLD

Your child may show some or all of the following:

  • Challenges in understanding what is said to them, e.g. verbal instructions, stories and paragraphs of information.
  • Challenges finding the words they want to say.
  • Gaps in vocabulary – may find learning and remembering words challenging.
  • Immature sounding language, such as, incorrect use of tenses or unusual word order.
  • Greater success learning through practical activities and visual cues like pictures.
  • Difficulties answering WH questions e.g. who, where, why.
  • Some challenges processing and remembering what they have learnt in the classroom

Because most learning and social interaction involves a lot of talking and listening, children/young people with DLD can also show differences in:

  • Attention, listening and focus
  • Making and keeping friendships
  • Speech sound skills
  • Reading and writing skills
  • Understanding and expressing their feelings and emotions
  • Styles of play, sometimes enjoying a lot of repetition in play.
  • Sensory processing, e.g. hyper or hypo sensitive to sounds, touch, taste, light and nose. See our section on Sensory Processing for more information about sensory processing.

RADLD have created this image to show the wide range of areas that DLD can impact in a child/young person.

RADLD Bubble resource image

DLD in a child/young person changes overtime as they grow. This is explained in this video by RADLD ‘Growing with DLD’.

What can you do?

Children/young people with DLD can thrive with the right understanding and support. Here are some strategies that are likely to help:

DLD strategies

Download this document to view an outline of the DLD support strategies, created by Moorhouse School and College, a specialist setting for children/young people with language disorders in Surrey, UK.

Download document

This ‘Life as an adult with DLD’ video, by RADLD, explains what it can be like having DLD as an adult and gives some helpful support strategies.

Go to video

Speech and Language Therapy support for children with DLD in Leeds

Speech and Language Therapists are the only professionals who can formally diagnose DLD. Nevertheless, all education settings should provide all children with appropriate support for their learning and wellbeing whether they have a formal diagnosis or not.

If your child has language needs and you think they may have DLD, first speak to your school Special Education Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCo) about the support they receive in school and any Speech and Language Therapy support available in school. You can find out more about special education needs and disability (SEND) support in schools on our Education pages.

Your school can refer your child to the Speech and Language Therapy Service for specialist support and assessment, as needed. Some schools buy their own Speech and Language Therapy service into their setting, from either NHS or independent services. Ask your SENCO about what Speech and Language Therapy support is available in your school and how your child can access that support.

All children and young people in Leeds can also access the NHS Mainstream Speech and Language Therapy Service. This can be accessed alongside school based Speech and Language Therapy support if appropriate. Schools can refer children and young people to this service, as well as parents/carers and other health professionals. You can find out more about the Leeds Children’s Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) service here including how to self-refer your child to the NHS Mainstream Service, if appropriate. There is also a huge range of advice and activities for supporting speech, language and communication needs in the Speech and Language Therapy Toolkit section.


Specialist DLD Speech and Language Therapy Team for children with DLD in Leeds

  • We have a team of specialist Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) working with children identified as having High Need DLD in Leeds. You can see their service leaflet here.
  • Children are referred to the specialist team by their mainstream or school Speech and Language Therapist (SLT). This SLT will already have done some assessment with your child in school/nursery or clinic and given some recommendations.
  • The specialist DLD team initially offer up to three sessions of diagnostic intervention, where they work closely with the child/young in their setting to fully assess the child’s needs, provide therapy and support parents and practitioners in delivering recommended interventions.
  • According to need, the DLD team may be able to offer further support to some children/young people or they may then receive follow up support from our mainstream SLT team.
  • We also offer training to practitioners (fee cost) and parents (free). If you would like to access the parent training, please speak to your child’s Speech and Language Therapist. The practitioner training, for education and health professionals, can be booked onto here.
  • Primary and Secondary Language Resource schools are available for some children with high need DLD. Your specialist SLT will discuss this with you if appropriate.

A young person, Lily Farrington, made this ‘Amazing Developmental Language Disorder Animation’ video that explains what DLD means to her.

Information and support for children/young people with DLD, their families and professionals


Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder is the leading UK DLD awareness organisation.

They have a brilliant range of videos on their You Tube channel about DLD, including some videos of children/ young people with DLD and their families.

Their website also has lots of resources and information for both families and practitioners.

Go to website


National organisation of Teachers, Speech and Language Therapists and Professionals focused on supporting language and communication development.

They have created a wide range of resources for both families and professionals. They have created a specific page for DLD resources for schools and families.

Go to website


Afasic supports and provides information for families with children and young adults who have Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) with a focus on Developmental Language Disorder (DLD).

They have a free helpline and lots of helpful free resources for families and practitioners.

Go to website

DLD Together Courses for Parents

AFASIC, together with NAPLIC, have created some brilliant online courses for parents/carers of children/young people with DLD. See more information, as well as other resources on their website.

Go to website

Speech and Language UK

Leading Speech and Language charity in the UK, with brilliant resources and information on DLD for both families and practitioners.

Go to website

DLD and me

This is a very helpful, evidence based and reliable website for children, young people and their families to understand what DLD is and how you can support a person with DLD. This organisation is based in the USA but the information is still very relevant and helpful.

Go to website

DLD Project

This is another evidence based, accurate and reliable source of information and support for families with DLD. This organisation is based in Australia but again the information is still very relevant and helpful.

Go to website

DLD Why Can't You See Me

This is a book by Shelbi Annison for children, written by a young adult in the UK with DLD. It explains what DLD is and how it may feel to have DLD.

Find our more information about the book

Moorhouse Research and Training Institute and TES

Download this helpful summary ‘Could it be language’ giving information on DLD and support strategies for educational practitioners.

Download document