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The great Specific Language Impairment (SLI) debate

October 2014

I CAN was pleased to contribute to the recent debate over the use of the label Specific Language Impairment (SLI) as a term used to diagnose some children’s language difficulties. The debate was published in a special July-August edition of the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders (IJLCD).

The special edition began with two lead articles, raising questions about and suggesting solutions to the use of the term SLI. Ten commentaries on each of the articles followed from a range of different sources including parents, speech and language therapists, researchers and representatives of charities such as ours and reflected many different perspectives about the issue. These ranged from concerns about throwing away a term which many had become familiar with, through to questioning whether it was possible to have the same term for both researchers and practitioners; all made for very interesting reading. The authors of the two lead articles then made a final response summarising the questions and issues raised and identifying the need for an international forum in order to continue the debate. Whilst there is no easy answer to this complex debate, there is clearly commitment to finding a way to describe the needs of children that meets the needs of everyone involved including young people themselves and their families.

The special edition of the IJLCD can be read from the Wiley Online Library.

Read a blog on the special edition written by I CAN’s Chief Executive Officer Virginia Beardshaw.

Read more about Specific Language Impairment here.

The RALLI campaign aims to Raise Awareness of Language Learning Impairments, with a focus on SLI. Their YouTube channel contains a number of interesting and informative videos that aim to explain what SLI is, give information on the impact of SLI and what can be done to support children with this condition.