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Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

Since the 1980s, a common diagnosis or label used by Speech Language Pathologists to identify children with language learning difficulties was Specific Language Impairment (SLI). After discussion and debate in the medical, health and education communities, a new term has been identified:

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

developmental language disorder

If you want to learn more about new term in video format, here's a great summary:

This term will be used by the World Health Organization in the latest International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 already uses “Language Disorder”. So if you see this in future Speech Language Pathology reports, from our clinic or elsewhere, here’s what it refers to:

DLD can affect phonology, grammar, semantics, word finding, pragmatics, verbal learning and memory.

Criteria for DLD diagnosis

  1. Child has language difficulties that create obstacles to communication or learning in everyday life

  2. The child’s language problems are unlikely to resolve (or have not resolved) but five years of age

  3. The problems are not associated with a known biomedical condition (differentiating conditions) such as brain injury, neurodegenerative conditions, genetic conditions or chromosome disorders such as Down Syndrome, sensorineural hearing loss, Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder or Intellectual Disability

In the case of children with any of the conditions in #3, the terminology used will be:

"Language disorder associated with ……….”. i.e. Language disorder associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The DLD diagnosis does not include:

  1. Late talkers that need therapy support but improve prior to age of 5

  2. Uncomplicated phonological problems in preschoolers (can resolve in therapy before age 5)

  3. Second language learning delays

A child in any of the above situations alone does not meet the criteria for a DLD diagnosis.

This diagnosis does not exclude:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Motor Problems (including dyspraxia)

  • Developmental Dyslexia

  • Speech difficulties

  • Behaviour and emotional disorders

So a child can have any of the above AND be diagnosed with DLD.

Having the DLD label is not a bad thing. The identification is intended to help you child access the resources they need to succeed!

language delay

If you have any questions about DLD or other Speech Language Pathology terms used in your child's speech therapy, contact us today.


Andalusia Speech Therapy has multiple clinics across Ontario and offers virtual speech therapy to anywhere in the world. Contact us more for information.

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