Skip to content

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

Developmental language disorder

What is developmental language disorder?

Developmental language disorder (DLD) is a severe and persistent difficulty with understanding and or using language. DLD affects about 7% of pupils, meaning that in a typical classroom, two pupils will have DLD, but they may not yet have been identified. Pupils with DLD will need on-going support and adjustments to the delivery of the curriculum in order to achieve their potential.

As well as affecting pupils’ ability to access the curriculum, DLD can also have an impact on making and maintaining relationships with others, and on self-esteem, mental health and wellbeing. Diagnosis of DLD is given by a speech and language therapist following a detailed assessment of their strengths and needs across six core areas; phonology; grammar; verbal learning and memory; semantics; word-finding skills and language use (pragmatics).

Further information about DLD and its impact on children and young people

Identification tools

If you are concerned about a pupil’s language skills, and think they may have DLD, these checklists are helpful, in addition to the Devon Graduated Response (DGR) tools, to pinpoint particular areas of need.

If you are concerned that a pupil may have difficulties with understanding and using language, please refer to the relevant NHS Speech and Language Therapy service for assessment and advice.

The Communications and Interactions team can support you to meet the needs of any pupil with SLCN who has either been seen by the speech and language therapy team or who is waiting to be seen. Please use our usual referral pathway.

Application for support in exams from a Language Modifier can be considered for students with DLD, where it is having a significant impact on their ability to demonstrate their learning through exams. See the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) guidance for further information.