As school returns, more support for students with Developmental Language Disorder is needed

Monday, February 1, 2021

As most children head back to school this week, the thought of a new classroom with different rules, routines and expectations can be a daunting prospect - especially for the 1 in 14 students with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), which affects how they think about, understand and use language.

‘Around two children are diagnosed with DLD within a typical Australian classroom of 30 students. Despite these numbers, students in our education system with DLD face multiple barriers to accessing the support they need,’ says Speech and Language Development Australia (SALDA) Chief Executive Mark Yeowell.

A new Evidence Brief, Supporting school aged children with Developmental Language Disorder, published today by the Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association’s Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research highlights the limited support available to students with DLD within the education system.

‘DLD can negatively affect a child’s education and their everyday social interactions, but children with DLD often go unnoticed and remain undiagnosed until primary school. This is partly due to the difficulties parents and teachers have recognising a child’s receptive and expressive language difficulties,’ says Mr Yeowell.

‘This demonstrates a greater need for DLD awareness in the community, particularly around recognising the signs of DLD at an early age. The knowledge of typical language development in children is essential to recognising these signs, yet information about speech and language development is minimal or absent in many initial teacher training programs.’

‘Children with DLD require ongoing and sustained speech pathology intervention. In Australia, each jurisdiction determines its own funding support for children with DLD, and the provision of services like speech pathology. While Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT provide some funded support for children with communication disability, including DLD, children in New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania have limited access.’

 ‘The high demand for speech pathology services in Australia creates barriers for children with DLD to access support. Even when there are funded positions for speech pathologists within schools, there are not always trained professionals available to fill the role, especially in rural and remote areas.’

‘Specific training and screening tools should be provided to teachers and included as part of the annual assessment process during the school-aged years. This will provide an avenue for dialogue between education staff and families about accessing additional support services.’

Supporting school aged children with Developmental Language Disorder is available online. More information on AHHA and the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research is available at More information about SALDA is available at

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, and community and primary healthcare services. Speech and Language Development Australia (SALDA) is the national peak body supporting and advocating for the needs of children and young people with speech, language and related disorders.

Media enquiries:  Mark Yeowell, CEO, Speech & Language Development Australia
0428 898 402