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Education, employment, and independent living outcomes in young adults with DLD

Dubois, P., St-Pierre, M.-C., Desmarais, C. and Guay, F. (2020). Young Adults With Developmental Language Disorder: A Systematic Review of Education, Employment, and Independent Living Outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 63(11), pp.3786–3800. doi:10.1044/2020_jslhr-20-00127.

Key terms in this paper:

  • Independent living: managing a household while also being involved in the social life of a community

  • Pro-sociality: performing acts of kindness; helping others without expecting anything in return

  • Self-esteem: confidence in one's own worth or abilities

  • Psychosocial challenges: difficulties (e.g., mental, emotional, behavioural) in different areas of personal and social functioning

What was the aim?

Research shows that apart from long-term language difficulties, children with DLD can also experience challenges in different areas of life. The present study examined a particularly challenging period for young adults with DLD: the transition from school to work. The focus was on three significant areas of life: education, employment, and independent living. Researchers also examined whether language abilities could predict outcomes in these areas. This paper is a ‘systematic review’, which is a thorough review of all available literature at the time of publication.

What was found?


  • Individuals with DLD were at risk of dropping out of school prematurely. They received lower grades, levels of qualification and education than their peers.

  • Language and literacy skills partly predicted the academic achievement of young adults with DLD. For example, reading skills at age 19 predicted educational achievements 5 years later.


  • Employment experience did not differ much between young adults with and without DLD. Job satisfaction, levels of support, and job security were similar between the two groups. Most people with and without DLD did not have problems getting along with coworkers.

  • Individuals with DLD faced more difficulties in the job search process than their peers. They reported longer periods of unemployment, lower job levels, and risk of receiving lower income after the age of 30.

  • Only language abilities at age 5 were a significant predictor of employment outcomes.

Independent living:

  • Youth with DLD were more likely to become parents at an earlier age. However, once they reached their 30s, rates of parenthood were similar between individuals with and without DLD. Rates of marriage were similar between these groups as well.

  • Financial independence appeared more challenging for individuals with DLD, although their language abilities did not predict this outcome.

  • Young adults with DLD were at risk of experiencing difficulties in making friends and participating in community life. This was possibly due to their lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of shyness.

  • However, pro-sociality appeared to be an area of relative strength for individuals with DLD. Young adults in this group who were highly prosocial, had fewer difficulties with making friends and were better integrated in their community.

What does it mean?

Overall, adults with DLD live similarly to their typically developing peers in many aspects. However, they still face challenges in elements of education, employment, and in building social networks. Interestingly, many differences between individuals with and without DLD are only partly explained by language abilities. These differences could be due to other factors such as personal and environmental characteristics (e.g., how pro-social or confident someone is; how much support one receives).

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it. Please click here to find the full paper: https:// doi:10.1044/2020_jslhr-20-00127

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