What is Developmental Language Disorder?

What is Developmental Language Disorder?

What causes developmental language disorder?

There is no single cause of developmental language disorder (DLD), but it does tend to run in families. Some factors, such as frequent ear infections, can make it worse, but they do not cause DLD. Other factors, such as early intervention, can make it better, but they cannot cure DLD.

It is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means a person is born with DLD and it affects the way the brain develops and learns. Other examples of neurodevelopmental disorders include autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, and ADHD.

How do I know if my child has developmental language disorder?

Children with DLD:

  • have difficulty understanding what people say, and
  • have difficulty talking,

compared to others of the same age and language background. These difficulties are significant enough to affect social interaction and education.

DLD is a lifelong condition; children cannot grow out of it or ‘catch-up’.

To diagnose DLD, a speech pathologist will have:

  • tested your child’s language skills and compared them to children the same age;
  • spoken with you or others to learn about how your child’s language difficulties affect daily life.

Your child’s team will also have ruled out other conditions that can cause language disorder. DLD is not the result of another condition.

What treatments are available for developmental language disorder?


there are no medications or surgical treatments that can address DLD


allied health interventions can help people with DLD to learn new skills and to manage the condition

Lifestyle and community

some types of changes can improve quality of life


there are no alternative or complementary therapies that can address DLD

DLD is a lifelong condition; there is no cure. Treatment aims to:

  • Reduce the severity and the impact: children with DLD can learn new skills.
  • Compensate: children with DLD can learn to understand and manage the condition.
  • Support: key people (such as parents and teachers) can learn to support children with DLD.
What is the outlook for children with developmental language disorder?

People with DLD typically have difficulties with reading and writing (which are forms of language). Because we learn and we interact with others through speaking, listening, reading, and writing, people with DLD often report problems with:

  • school work: people with DLD are more likely to be early school leavers
  • forming and maintaining deep friendships
  • mental health: people with DLD are more likely to develop anxiety and/or depression
  • finding employment that matches their skills

With the right supports in place, people with DLD go on to live happy and meaningful lives. It is important to be aware of the risks, and to seek professional help early if you see signs of these problems.

For more information, see:

What is Developmental Language Disorder?

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