Language Disorder is a neuro-developmental disability that affects the way a person thinks about, understands, and uses language. It is a persistent and lifelong disability.
According to Language Disorder Australia’s Head of Allied Health Services, Lisa Quinn, the prevalence of the condition is far bigger than many imagine, “the cohort of our children and young people with language disorder is conservatively estimated to be 10% of our learners in a typical classroom.”
Because language is fundamental to life, difficulties in this domain can have far-reaching impacts. For example, how a young person communicates their needs, their educational attainment, building social connections and more.
Mrs Quinn also highlights that, “signs of Language Disorder are often evident in the early years and children with language difficulties at age 5 are likely to experience long-term and persistent problems throughout their lives.”
Language Disorder is frequently associated with a biomedical condition/conditions, for example, individuals with Autism, Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome will often have various levels of difficulties across domains of language.
For children and young people who have no other diagnosis but have persistent language difficulties across all languages they speak, we use the term Developmental Language Disorder (DLD).
Mrs Quinn also refers to research showing that “DLD affects 1 in 14 students in a classroom and is referred to as a ‘hidden disability’, as these students may not have overt signs of disability, yet may struggle in the classroom.”
Within classrooms, learners with Language Disorder and DLD may present as experiencing difficulties with:
Understanding language (e.g., understanding and following instructions, remembering information correctly, comprehending a written passage and drawing correct inferences, etc.)
Using language (e.g., structuring grammatically correct sentences, using a rich vocabulary, using expected social conventions, e.g. recognising the degree of ‘formality’ of a conversational context. Etc.)
Teachers and speech pathologists partnering together can lead to the successful implementation of strategies to support learners with Language Disorder to access the curriculum. Adjustments for learners with Language Disorder and DLD will be crucial for some, helpful for all, and harmful to none.