Academic achievement in adolescents with DLD

Conti‐Ramsden, G., Durkin, K., Simkin, Z., & Knox, E. (2009). Specific language impairment and school outcomes. I: Identifying and explaining variability at the end of compulsory education. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 44(1), 15-35.

Aim of the paper:


Many people are interested in the long-term academic progress of students with developmental language disorder (DLD). However, the research findings on the academic achievement of students with DLD have been mixed, showing a wide range of levels in the formal educational qualifications obtained. This study examined the educational experiences of adolescents with and without DLD at the end of compulsory education. The influence of literacy and language, non-verbal IQ, and earlier educational achievement were also investigated.

What was found:


  • 44% of adolescents with DLD got at least one of the expected qualifications at the end of secondary education whereas 88% of adolescents without DLD achieved the same level.

  • 71% of adolescents with DLD were entered for at least one examination at the end of compulsory education.

  • There was no significant difference in the number of examinations taken or grades achieved between adolescents with resolved-DLD (i.e., those who had a history of DLD but now have language abilities within a normal range) and adolescents without DLD.

  • Literacy and language skills were predictive of educational attainment when non-verbal IQ and maternal education were controlled for.

  • There was a very strong association between patterns of entry for examinations at age 11 and patterns of entry for examinations at the end of compulsory education.


What does this mean?


The findings indicate that adolescents with DLD can have more difficulty in gaining successful outcomes from secondary education than those without DLD. However, it is also important to note that there is a wide range of educational outcomes within the DLD group. Academic achievement can be greatly influenced by individual differences in literacy and language abilities. Considering the importance of earlier educational experience in future academic achievement, thorough assessment and evaluation of children’s language needs are needed before the start of secondary school. This could lead to professionals providing better language support to children, working towards improving children’s language at an early stage.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk and request a copy of the paper.