Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is a relatively new term, but it is very common with approximately two students in every mainstream classroom presenting with this condition. Most simply, DLD is trouble with understanding and / or talking. Recently the NAPLIC annual conference was held with the theme of ‘Growing Up with Developmental Language Disorder.’ The idea was to explore how DLD changes and how we can provide support at different stages from early years, through primary and secondary education into young adulthood.

The day was opened by Juliet Wright, a young person with DLD, who very powerfully expressed the experience of being a young person with DLD. Her top tips included:

  • Make lessons visual, calm and fun
  • Keep language simple and flag up key words (ideally in advance)
  • Remember it takes longer for me to remember
  • Lessons are stressful and tiring, and so I need time for breaks
  • Give me strategies to support me when the words just won’t come.

Juliet struggles with language, but her needs have been identified and supported. Many others are not identified. Maxine Winstanley from University of Manchester found in her research that 50% of first-time young offenders had previously unidentified DLD. This contrasted with young adults with identified DLD who had been well supported in school. They were less likely to exhibit risky behaviour or be in contact with the police than their peers. Take home message: young people with unidentified needs are at far more risk.

Anna Sowerbutts and Amanda Finer from Hackney outlined their programme, ‘DLD and Me’ to support children and young people understand their DLD diagnosis. The impact on students’ self-awareness has been transformative. We look forward to this being published later in the year.

Melanie Rudkins and Marie Newton work together in the multi-disciplinary support service in Brighton and Hove. Their theme was collaboration: amongst professionals, but importantly with schools and families. Something that we at NAPLIC fully endorse.

Support for students with DLD in secondary has often been a challenge, but Billie Lowe from City, University of London showed that a one hour INSET with secondary teachers can have a positive impact on how they teach vocabulary.

Data from a number of longitudinal studies was synthesised by Cristina McKean from Newcastle University into simple messages. Language needs that are identified at 4 years of age are very likely to persist, so intervention needs to start then.

There is a small group of children (about 4%) who emerge after 4 years of age.

The day ended with a focus on Early Years and the big surprise came from Danielle Matthews at University of Sheffield who showed that whilst encouraging parents to respond to young babies’ communication (‘contingent talk’) had a positive effect, the same was not true for shared book reading. Deborah Powers from the ‘Time to Talk’ initiative in Warwickshire outlined how her innovative service support Early Years settings to provide quality support. Training had a great impact on staff and on the children they worked with.

NAPLIC is the national organisation for professionals who work with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), and in particular Developmental Language Disorder. We are a committed bunch of volunteers who have been running for 35 years. Because we are volunteer run, we are able to be very cost-effective, with membership from £20 per year and conference from £99. Join us and support a better future for children and young people with DLD.

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