Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

The Focus of our Research

Children with Developmental Language Disorder

About 7% of children have difficulty learning language even though there is no obvious cause. For example, they do not have a hearing impairment, an intellectual disability, a brain injury, or autism spectrum disorder – all conditions which might interfere with language learning. In our research, we are trying to learn more about these children who have language learning problems in the absence of these other conditions.

Student clinicians working with child.


These children are described using various terms, such as:

  • developmental language disorder
  • language delay
  • specific language impairment
  • language impairment
  • language-learning disability

Currently, many researchers advocate for the use of the term “Developmental Language Disorder” to describe these children. The term “developmental” points to the fact that, as these children develop, the nature or symptoms of their language-learning difficulties change.  

Common characteristics

Here are some common characteristics that might be observed in a child with Developmental Language Disorder, from first words through the preschool years:

  • Often, they start talking later than other children.
  • When they do start to talk, they may talk less than other children.
  • They may be harder to understand due to speech problems, in addition to delayed language.
  • Once they begin to combine words, these “sentences” may contain grammatical errors. For example, these children may say things such as “Where him go?” “She singing pretty song,” or “Her like ice cream.”
  • The children might be receiving speech-language therapy at school and might have an IEP that uses terms such as one of those above (such as “language impairment”, “language delay,” “speech impairment” etc.).
  • Even if children are not receiving speech therapy at school, parents may be concerned about their children’s slow language development.

More information and Advocacy groups