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Speech Therapy | Developmental Language Disorder at Total Communication



Using language is a skill that allows us to share our ideas and feelings - to learn effectively in school and to understand the world around us. Unfortunately, people diagnosed with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) struggle with these aspects on a daily basis.

Developmental language disorder, or DLD for short, is a hidden but very common condition that means a child has difficulty using and/or understanding language. Children with Developmental language disorder have language abilities that fall behind those of other children of their age, even though they are just as smart. Having trouble with language means that children with DLD may have difficulty socializing with their classmates, talking about how they feel, and learning in school (Norbury, Gooch, Wray, Baird, Charman and Simonoff, 2016).

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If your class at school was made up of 28 students, there would be about two students in your class with DLD. It is a life-long condition. Even though DLD is usually first discovered and treated in childhood, it usually does not go away as a child grows up.

Norbury, C. F., Gooch, D., Wray, C., Baird, G., Charman, T., Simonoff, E., et al. 2016. The impact of nonverbal ability on prevalence and clinical presentation of language disorder: evidence from a population study. J. Child Psychol.


Psychiatry 57:1247–57. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12573



It affects approximately 7% of the population (more common than Autism and ADHD).

Affects Boys

It affects more boys than girls.

There is no known cause.

What can help?

It is a lifelong condition but therapy (intervention) can help.


It is difficult with talking and/or understanding and affects learning, confidence, and socializing.

DLD and its effects on learning in school

Developmental language disorder has often been linked to being a main contributing factor to language problems. Children with DLD often show poor performances at school because of their oral language difficulties.  They have a hard time using language, understanding, and making meaning to what teachers or classmates are saying.

Developmental Language Disorder and its effects on learning in school

Children with DLD are also more likely to have reading disabilities than other children. This would, hence, limit their ability to acquire the content required for reading. They would struggle with reading individual words and interpreting the meaning from texts.

Developmental Language Disorder's reading disabilities

DLD also affect a child’s ability to respond to math problem-solving questions as it requires them to make good interpretation and sense of what the question is asking and what would be the best solution for it.

Developmental Language Disorder's treatment in Singapore
Ways to support your child to better progress in school

As the saying goes, “When there is a will, there is a way.” Hence, with the right support children too CAN succeed in school. This support would have to first come with a comprehensive language assessment administered by speech and language therapists. This is to help understand the child better and in identifying areas to be developed by curating a suitable individualized plan. It is important to know that support from professionals, like speech-language therapists, educational therapists and teachers, can make a huge difference in the lives of children with Developmental language disorders.

More ways to help support:
  1. Make language more accessible by making clear, explicit statements. Instead of saying ‘You need to be ready for school’, you could say ‘Time is up! The bus has arrived. You need to change into your uniform with your bags and get to the bus now.

  2. Repeat and rephrase key instructions in short and simple sentences for easy comprehension.

  3. Use multimodal support to convey messages. This can be aided with visual cues/ planners, charts, posters, etc.

DLD children require many repetitions and opportunities to practice. Hence, consistent and well-planned instructions can help make a positive impact on their language. Through co-teaching, educators and therapists can create a rich environment with positive effects on children with DLD.


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