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Supporting Your Child With DLD

In a previous article we gave you some basic information about Developmental Language Disorder, or DLD. Here we will discuss ways you can help your child if you think they may have DLD.

Communication can be a major concern for a child with DLD. This can be frustrating for parents and children alike, as it can be difficult for both parties to feel heard and understood.

Here are some tips for helping to ensure you can communicate clearly:

  • Use their name first. Before asking your child to do something, say their name. This can act as a signal to them that they need to pay attention to the rest of the sentence. So rather than saying “Please would you go and get your hat Jenny” say “Jenny, please go and get your hat.”
  • Make sure your face is visible. Shouting from another room is never ideal communication and can create extra difficulties for a child with DLD. Turn to face them; it may be useful to also get down to their level so that you can look each other properly in the face. This can really support listening and concentration.
  • Don’t over complicate. Use language that is as simple as possible, with short sentences that come straight to the point. For example, rather than “because it’s sunny today I thought you could play in the garden, does that sound good?” just say “do you want to go outside?”
  • Repeat yourself. This can support memory and also gives them the opportunity to hear words, but also to see your face as you say them. It can be very helpful with communication.
  • Talk calmly and slowly. This helps a child with DLD to process words and information.
  • Give them more time to respond. It can take a child with DLD longer to process what has just been said, so they may take longer to respond. Trying to hurry them along only creates more stress for both parties.
  • Symbols can be helpful. Visual timetables can be a much easier way to help structure the day or week. A picture or gesture to represent a new word or concept can really support their understanding.
  • Encourage whatever form of communication suits them best. Communication is more than just speaking - and this is true for all of us. A child with DLD may struggle with language but may find they can communicate with a gesture, a facial expression or simply pointing. Repeat the word back to them as you mimic what they are doing, but accept their gesture or expression rather than trying to make them say a word.
  • Check understanding. When providing new instructions or information, ask them to repeat it back to you or to tell you in their own words.
  • Help them with skills for interacting with others. Games are great for this, helping children to learn to take turns and listen to others.
  • Give specific instructions. Be very clear about what you want them to do and don’t leave anything to guess work. For example, rather than “put that thing away” say “Jenny, please put your blue coat on a hook in the cupboard.”
  • Use role play. This can be great for practising language in different contexts and can help to ease anxiety. They can practise remembering what they need to ask for in the shop or on the bus, or practise ordering in a cafe or restaurant.


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