07 January 2021

Understanding Developmental Language Disorder

Amy Loxley is an I CAN Speech & Language Advisor, below she unveils new resources from I CAN and Whole School SEND on Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) 

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) has been called “the most common childhood disorder that no one’s ever heard of”. Affecting 7.6% of all children, it’s likely that two children in every average class of 30 in the UK have DLD. Yet, half of these children are not being identified by schools – meaning that they are not getting access to the support they need. 

Children and young people with DLD have problems understanding and/or using spoken language, and because language underlies so much of what we do, there is almost certainly an impact on many other areas as well, including literacy, learning, social interaction, mental health and life chances. DLD is a lifelong condition, so children with this diagnosis won’t grow out of their difficulties or “catch up” to their peers. They are likely to need some level of support or adaptations throughout their education and potentially into their adult lives. 

The potential long-term outcomes of DLD are significant. Analysis of DfE data from 2018 indicates that young people with a language difficulty are four times less likely to get good GCSEs. Research into employment outcomes has shown that children with poor vocabulary skills are twice as likely to be unemployed when they reach adulthood. Language disorder even impacts on the mental health of children and young people  81% of children with emotional and behavioural disorders have been found to have unidentified language difficulties. 

So, it iclear that this is a significant area of need, affecting many children and young people, and that not enough people know about itTo address this, I CAN and Whole School SEND are offering a suite of professional development resources for teachers and other school-based professionals to increase their understanding of DLD and to ensure effective provision is available for children and young people with DLD. Resources include a series of eight 90-minute webinars on DLD, a mini-guide on DLD for school staff, and a PowerPoint presentation with supporting speaking notes on ‘Inclusion by design for children with DLD’ for SENCos to use for information and to share with staff in their schools. 

We kicked off the webinars in the Autumn term 2020, delivering four introductory 90-minute webinars on the following topics:  

- An introduction to DLD for primary school teachers 

- An introduction to DLD for secondary school teachers 

- Identification of and effective provision for pupils with DLD – for SENCos 

- Commissioning for a speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)  pathway – for senior leaders 

We have reached a huge number of school-based professionals so far, with 628 attendees from primary and secondary settings across the four webinarsThe feedback received has been really encouraging and has demonstrated the current appetite and need for information on this important area. The results of a follow-up feedback survey indicated that over 90% of teachers knew more about DLD and how it impacts children after attending the relevant webinar. Even more importantly, people felt that what they had learned would have an impact on their practice – a huge 97% of respondents across all four webinars said they would change their practice as a result of attending. 

Delivering the webinars in this way has been a relatively new way of working for I CAN. Before 2020, most of our training and delivery took place face-to-face. But 2020 has brought with it a host of new ways of working, and the need to learn new skills – such as presenting to a large number of people virtually while feeling as though you’re the only person in the room! There are many advantages to online delivery – attendance is maximised, we can reach a wider range of people across a greater variety of locations, whilst using new tools to encourage interaction and participation! Zoom polls and Mentimeter word clouds have fast become common practice for us when presenting to large numbers of people. Here’s Mentimeter word cloud that we saved from our “Introduction to DLD” webinar for primary teachers – when we asked them how children with DLD might present in the classroom, this is what they told us: 

The first quarter of 2021 will be an exciting time for I CAN and Whole School SENDWe’ll be delivering the next four webinars in the series – these will be at the intermediate level and will build on the information and knowledge shared in the introductory set. We will be publishing the DLD mini-guide, which will provide a comprehensive introduction to DLD for teachers and other school-based practitioners. We’ll also be sharing the PowerPoint and supporting speaking notes on ‘Inclusion by design for children with DLD’ – which should provide a practical and useful resource that SENCos can use to share information with staff in their schools about DLD. 

For more information about these resources, including recordings and handouts from the four introductory webinars, and links to book your place on the intermediate webinar series, visit: https://ican.org.uk/dld-webinar-series/. Resources will also be hosted on the SEND gateway in the first quarter of 2021. 

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