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What is a Developmental Language Disorder?

What is a developmental language disorder?

  • A developmental language disorder (DLD) is a diagnosis given to a person who has difficulty talking and/or understanding language.

  • It has been known in the past as expressive-receptive language disorder, specific language impairment, or speech-language impairment. DLD is now the term used for these language problems.

  • DLD can be a ‘hidden’ difficulty. Sometimes it’s mistaken for a problem with behaviour or attention. It’s a lifelong condition that can have a big impact on friendships, learning at school and finding a job.

  • Approximately 1 in 14 children have DLD (QLD Health, 2022).

  • The language difficulties these children experiences are not explained by other conditions, such as hearing loss or autism, or by extenuating circumstances, such as lack of exposure to language. DLD can affect a child’s speaking, listening, reading, and writing (NIH, 2021).

Children with poor language skills may have:

  • Language impairments that create reading difficulties. This can lead to impacts at school and can increase associated behavioral difficulties (Durkin et al., 2011; Schoon et al., 2010).

  • Ongoing communication problems in adulthood (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992).

  • Lasting impacts that may affect future employment prospects (Beitchman et al., 1994).

In year 1 children can typically understand:

Receptive language

  • Follow 2-3 step instructions in a sequence

  • Understand more basic concepts such as same & different (size & function); quantity (few, most, pair) and time

  • Use accurate grammar accurately

  • Understand all basic wh- questions such as what, why, when, where

  • Use higher level language such as jokes, tease, sarcasm, argument, explanations, predictions

In year 1, children can say...


  • Say approximately 2600 words

  • Answer more complex yes/no questions

  • Use complete sentences to express themselves

  • Ask and answer all basic wh- questions

  • Use most parts of speech and grammar accurately

  • Sort objects into categories

  • Use regular and irregular past tense verbs

  • Use conjunctions such as "because, then, before, if…"

  • Initiate conversation, sustain topic and take turns

Communication Milestones
Communication Milestones

Speak to Access Allied Health & Training for guidance and what to do to improve your child's language ability ~ or phone 0400836254 for an appointment.


Raising Children Network (2022). Language Delay, retrieved from Language delay in children | Raising Children Network

Speech Pathology Australia (2016). Communication Milestones, retrieved from Communication Milestones (


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