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What is developmental language disorder (DLD)?

A face looking confused with a question mark beside it

What is DLD?

DLD stands for developmental language disorder.

Having DLD means someone would have significant, ongoing difficulties understanding or using spoken language.

There is no known cause of DLD which can make it hard to explain.

DLD is not caused by emotional difficulties or limited exposure to language.

One person helping another with something being written down on paper

What are the signs someone has DLD?

  • They may not talk as much and find it difficult to express themselves verbally.
  • Their language may sound immature for their age.
  • They may not be able to find the right word and may have a small vocabulary.
  • They may not remember information that has been said.
confused face

What impact might it have?

Sometimes language issues underlie a person’s behaviour: they may get angry, anxious or misbehave in class.

It can impact on learning and achievement in school.

Sometimes reading, writing and social interactions are affected

They may find it easier to see things or have them demonstrated.

A smiling face with a hand pointing and a thought bubble with an exclamation point inside

What can I do to help?

You have started already! Understanding more about DLD is really important to help make sense of the challenges it presents.

Use simple language, repeat information, talk slowly enough to give them time to process what has been said.

Use visuals, gestures and demonstrations. Let them use their eyes to reinforce their understanding.

Check their understanding: can they tell you what they have been asked to do?

Give positive feedback. We want them to feel good about their communication efforts.

Websites and resouces

There are some really good resources and videos about DLD on the NAPLIC website:


This is an example of one of the videos on the NAPLIC site: Adults and children talking about DLD.

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Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

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