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Building better Developmental Language Disorder services: where to start?

Stephen Parsons, NAPLIC Chair, shares his thoughts

With such low awareness of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), patchy services and lack of school support for many it can be hard to see a way forward, particularly in the current economic and political crisis. 

It won’t be easy, but there is a way forward, and the power lies in the hands of Speech and Language Therapists. 

With an incidence of 7.6% (Norbury 2016), DLD is the most common speech, language and communication need. It is 5 times more common than autism. And that 7.6% equates to 1 million children and young people (under 18) across the UK. Imagine for a moment if each of every one of those children and young people knew they had DLD. Their families would know about DLD. Their teachers would know about DLD. We would have a ‘DLD army. ‘

And that DLD army could go places. Not only would awareness be far higher, but the sheer number of people would create a great political force. DLD would be a much higher priority and services, support and research would all grow. 

That’s the ambition. How do we get there? Before any child or young person can join the 1 million strong DLD army they first need to know they have DLD. And that’s where Speech and Language Therapists (SaLT) come in. SaLT are the key professionals for diagnosing DLD, and so each and every one of us has a role to play. I am not saying that these changes will happen overnight, but we need to keep that vision in mind and move towards it one small step at a time. 

DLD is so common that all SaLT who work with children and young people need to be confident with its diagnosis. DLD diagnosis should be a bread and butter SaLT skill. To meet this end NAPLIC has created a series of online modules. These all address commonly asked questions related to DLD diagnosis, so will build practitioner knowledge. To make best use of the modules, gather a group of colleagues, and book in a time to review them together. There are reflection tasks which are suited to group discussion, and putting your learning into practice will also benefit from group work. The modules are free to all. 

Check them out: www.naplic.org.uk/diagnosing-dld-online-learning 

To develop robust systems of support across services, specialist SaLT will need a deeper set of skills. And once again this is where NAPLIC comes to the rescue. On Friday April 21st we are holding a symposium on DLD diagnosis. Professor Lisa Archibald is coming over from Canada to lead this one off event. Lisa is one of the world’s’ leading experts on DLD diagnosis. She has developed the DLD diagnostics toolkit, which is free and online here: https://uwo.ca/fhs/lwm/news/2020/index.html This is a very useful tool and will be the basis of the symposium. There will be opportunities for discussion around case studies to deepen understanding with other knowledgeable colleagues 

This symposium is open to all, but we especially encourage specialist Speech and Language Therapists who lead on DLD who are involved in diagnostic teams to attend. This is a one off chance and will not be repeated. For details and booking: www.naplic.org.uk/conferences   

Together we can make a difference.

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