Developmental language disorder

Many children experience difficulties with learning language; they experience difficulties with some, or all of the areas of language below


Combining words

Putting words together to make little sentences; they may say only one word or use a string of key words e.g. “ball” “kick” for ‘the boy’s kicking a ball’.


Ordering words

Putting words in the right order in a sentence e.g. “drinking that is a orange a girl”.


Full Sentences

Remembering to include all parts of a sentence e.g. “wash hands” instead of “the boy is washing his hands”.


Action words

Using action words in their sentences; they may miss the action from their sentence or use nonspecific words such as doing instead of using a specific action word E.g. “He’s do that”.


Grammatical words

Using grammatical words in sentences e.g.  “I go bed early watch telly.” Instead of “I went to bed early and watched telly


Grammatical endings

Using grammatical endings such as, two cats, Mum’s coat, jumped, didn’t e.g. “Him got two dog_ at him house”.


Word finding

Thinking of and remembering words; their sentences may be hesitant as they struggle to think of and remember a word e.g. “I got…huhuhu…one on the…are on the back…on my bike…I got brakes on my bike”.

They may use incorrect words e.g.  knife instead of fork or “thing” instead of the word they need. This has a knock-on effect on how they organise what they want to say, making it seem jumbled or confused.


Beyond the sentence

Difficulties organising language beyond the sentence to explain things or tell stories.

If these difficulties have a big impact on how your child functions in their everyday life at home and school and  if they are likely to continue beyond the age of 5 years, your child may have developmental language disorder (DLD).

If your child also has a developmental condition such as a learning difficulty or autism spectrum disorder, they may have a language disorder associated with that condition.

A Speech and Language Therapist can help identify your child’s needs and advise on activities and strategies to support your child’s communication at home and school.

Supporting your child’s language skills

Use these handy tips to start supporting your child straight away; a speech and language therapist will provide additional advice tailored to your child’s individual needs.


Top tip #1

Spend some time talking with your child every day - turn off the TV and put phones and games consoles out of sight. Join in with their play, play board games with them, look at books together or just have a chat.


Top tip #2

Help their understanding by:

  • Showing them as well as telling them; point at things, use gestures, demonstrate what you mean
  • Using short sentences and simple words
  • Saying it again If you need to, or saying it a different way
  • Breaking long instructions into small chunks
  • Giving them time to think


Top tip #3

Help them to develop spoken sentences by modelling sentences for them:

  • Put into words what they are trying to say
  • Repeat what they said and adding a bit more information
  • Rephrase what they said and say it for them to hear
  • Draw their attention to grammatical words in sentence e.g. he ate the porridge 


Top tip #4

Help them learn new words by:

  • Helping them say the word while looking at the item or experiencing an action or emotion
  • Talking about other words that go with it e.g. a cat is an animal, let’s think of some other animals…
  • Drawing their attention to the sounds in the word e.g. cat has a /c/ sound at the start
  • Playing word games such modified “I spy” e.g. I spy an animal; I spy something to play with; I spy something to eat…


Top tip #5

Help them think of and remember the word they want to use by:

  • Saying the first sound of the word e.g. it’s a p….
  • Saying a sentence for them to finish e.g. You draw with a…
  • Giving an alternative e.g. Do you think it’s a pen or a pencil?
  • Encouraging them to use gesture, drawing or writing to help get their message across

Links to further information

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists


Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder


DLD and me

Spreading the word about Developmental Language Disorder. Our goal is to raise awareness about developmental language disorder (DLD) and to offer support and resources for parents, teachers and individuals impacted by DLD.



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