I CAN supports new terminology

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I CAN, the children’s communication charity supports new terminology to end 200 years of confusion in diagnosing a disorder affecting two children in every classroom

  • Academics and I CAN join forces to agree new terminology for a ‘hidden condition’ that can affect every aspect of communication with lasting impact on emotional and educational development
  • Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day takes place 22 September 2017 with events across the UK.

Following a five year campaign to raise awareness of language difficulties that affect more than half a million people in the UK, I CAN, the children’s communication charity is supporting a drive from academics to agree a new, streamlined terminology that will make the ‘hidden condition’ easier to diagnose and ensure those affected receive specialist help. Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) will become the consensus term for language difficulties that can affect on average two children in every classroom causing difficulties with spoken language, communication, language understanding, educational attainment and is seven times more prevalent than autism.

The complexity of DLD means that it can have a serious and long-term impact on development. According to The Manchester Language Study, 40% of those with DLD say that by age 16 they had difficulties interacting with their peers with half experiencing bullying during their childhood. Other studies support this relationship, finding that teenagers with DLD were more than twice as likely to report symptoms of depression as their typically developing peers. Without diagnosis and specialist support, the impacts of DLD can last into adulthood by increasing the risk of unemployment and reducing the opportunity to be independent.

Sophie, 37: “I was diagnosed with DLD when I was young. I’ve had great support from my parents, and specialist schooling and support including from speech and language therapists, so I have been able to succeed in more than I would ever expect. [But], it is always there in my life, and something I have to find strategies to get by. I wish I could do things that other people could do, and take things in and remember things when told the first time. [Having DLD] does get me down. It causes me to have anxiety and low self-esteem.”

The campaign to raise awareness of language difficulties and agree DLD was led by Professor Dorothy Bishop (University of Oxford), Professor Gina Conti-Ramsden (The University of Manchester), Professor Courtenay Norbury (University College London), Professor Maggie Snowling (University of Oxford) and Becky Clark (RADLD Editor & Speech & Language Therapist, ClarkSLT). It follows research finding that despite nearly 200 years of professionals identifying language problems there is poor awareness of the condition relative to the frequency and severity of DLD. Most commonly, those affected are mistaken as being inattentive, having more general learning difficulties or poor behaviour. 

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of I CAN: “After gaining much needed agreement around the characteristics and features of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) we are thrilled to now celebrate this consensus in terminology. Clarity in this area will only make it easier for parents and practitioners to understand the challenges children and young people with DLD are facing. I CAN are proud to be supporting RADLD and encourage other organisations and individuals to research the issue that impacts so many. The correlation between DLD and other developmental difficulties should be a stark reminder to all, that language is imperative to living”

Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Oxford: “For five years, we have been working to raise awareness of a hidden condition that affects around 7 per cent of children – two in every classroom. When a child has difficulty with communication, it has significant and lasting impact on every aspect of their development. This is why it is so important we address confusing terminology that has made it difficult for those affected to receive the help they need. Having reached agreement on Developmental Language Disorder, our hope is that we

will make it easier for those affected to be diagnosed and receive the specialist support that can make such a difference.”

By increasing awareness and recognition of DLD, the ambition is to ensure any child affected is able to access specialist speech and language therapy and support they need.  To help, the RADLD team has produced the ‘DLD 1-2-3’, an easy to use guide on the key facts about the condition:

DLD 1: ‘Developmental Language Disorder’ is identified when a child or adult has difficulties talking and/or understanding language.

DLD 2: DLD is a hidden disability that affects approximately two children in every classroom, affecting literacy, learning, friendships and emotional well-being.

DLD 3: Support from professionals, including speech and language therapists and teachers, can make a real difference.

To find out more about the campaign, hear case studies of those affected or from the academics behind ‘Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder’ go to www.youtube.com/RADLD

For more information or interviews with I CAN:

Matt Geer

mgeer@ican.org.uk 0207 843 2539 or 07824 446 989

For more information or interviews with the RADLD team:

Natalie Orringe

norringe@teamspiritpr.com 07816 588 750

(1) The recommendation for the use of the diagnostic term Developmental Language Disorder has been published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Bishop et al., 2017), with an account of how consensus on the new terminology was reached.

(2) DLD affects approximately two children in every classroom.  A recent epidemiological study in the UK, the SCALES study (Norbury et al. 2016), found that 7.5% of children had DLD with no associated biomedical condition.

(3) The Manchester Language Study found that by 16 years of age, 40% of individuals with DLD had difficulties in their interaction with peers (St. Clair, Pickles, Durkin & Conti-Ramsden, 2011), 50% of 16 year olds recall being bullied in childhood (in comparison to less than 25% of typically-developing teenagers) and 13% have experienced persisting bullying since childhood. 

(4) Teenagers with DLD are two and half times more likely to report symptoms of depression than their typically developing peers (Conti-Ramsden & Botting, 2008). Most therapies for children's mental health problems are 'talking therapies' which are unlikely to be effective for children with DLD.

(5) DLD can increase the risk of unemployment and lack of independence in adulthood (Conti-Ramsden & Durkin, 2008). Nevertheless, those with milder problems often hold down jobs, but usually of a relatively unskilled nature.

(6) Research identifying poor awareness of the condition relative to the frequency and severity of (Bishop, 2010)

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