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Young people with DLD and their experiences of language and communication at school.

Ekström, A., Sandgren, O., Sahlén, B., & Samuelsson, C. (2023). ‘It depends on who I’m with’: How young people with developmental language disorder describe their experiences of language and communication in school. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 1-14.

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Key terms in this paper:

  • Experiences of language: these include speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

  • Communication: exchanging information with another person.

Aim of the paper:

Previous research has examined the differences in language and communication of children with DLD. However, not much is known about how these differences can influence children’s everyday experiences at school. This study interviewed a group of teenagers (13-19 years old) with DLD to find out more about their experiences and feelings of language and communication at school.

What was found:

Young people with DLD described that their experiences depend on the situation, and who they were with. The following four experiences related to language and communication in school were often discussed in the interviews:

  1. Feeling inadequate in comparison to others (e.g., comparing their reading abilities to those of their peers).

  2. Feeling misjudged and misunderstood (e.g., when teachers do not recognise their efforts or potential).

  3. Finding it very important to feel safe and comfortable in order to take part in school activities (e.g., preferring to work in small rather than large groups).

  4. Finding that they can communicate well with some people at school (e.g., friends), but not with others (e.g., some teachers). Or in other words - feeling more relaxed with certain people and less with other.

What does this mean?

The ways in which DLD can influence a young person’s experience of school are different for every child. This can depend on their individual characteristics (e.g., their language abilities, thoughts and feelings), as well as external factors in their environment (e.g., how well teachers understand their difficulties). Attending speech and language therapy services throughout the school year may provide the correct support. Social and emotional support is also likely to improve young people’s school experiences. Teenagers with DLD do not seem to have difficulties communicating with friends or with peers that make them feel comfortable. Having supportive peers can help them become more confident taking part in classroom activities.

Importantly, children and young people with DLD can communicate well about their experiences at school. Their perspectives could be used to design better and more supportive interventions. This could make school more enjoyable for students with DLD.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it. Please click on the link below to find the full paper:


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