Care Speech Pathology

Specific Language Impairment (SLI)

Did you know? In Australia, the term Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is no longer recognised. It has been replaced by a new, more robust term, called Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). If you, your child or someone you know currently has a diagnosis of Specific Language Impairment (SLI), you can speak to a speech pathologist about having your diagnosis updated.

Development Language Disorder (DLD), previously known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI), affects 1 in 14 people in Australia (that’s two in every classroom!). You may not have heard of SLI or DLD before, so it is important to know that you are not alone and it is actually quite common. The good news is, speech pathologists in Australia are specially trained to use evidence-based intervention to improve the acquisition and use of language in children with SLI or DLD.

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Specific Language Impairment

At Care Speech Pathology, we know how to help.

You may have noticed some of these signs if a child, adolescent or adult you know has SLI or DLD. These might include some or several of the following:

  • Late talker

  • Late to put words together into sentences

  • Limited vocabulary (may talk less and use non-specific words)

  • Grammatical or sentence errors

  • Difficulty finding the right words

  • Difficulty answering questions appropriately

  • Difficulty expressing complex thoughts

  • Tendency towards short, simple sentences

  • Difficulty making conversations

  • Difficulties learning and or producing new words

  • Difficulty fully understanding what they hear

  • Difficulty following directions

  • Difficulty understanding or telling stories

  • Articulation or speech sound errors

  • Difficulty using language appropriate to different contexts (eg, scientific language)

  • Difficulty with academic areas that rely on language skills

  •  Difficulty learning to read

  • Difficult understanding non-literal language

What is Specific Language Impairment (SLI)?

What is Specific Language Impairment (SLI)?

SLI (now known as DLD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to learn, understand and use language despite typical hearing and cognition. These days, the formal diagnosis is known as Development Language Disorder (DLD).

People with SLI or DLD can have difficulties with speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Whether they are a child or an adult, SLI or DLD can affect a person’s ability to express themselves effectively, process and understand language, and develop vocabulary. It can also impact their academic performance and their ability to engage effectively in social interactions which can lead to challenges with making and keeping friends. Sadly, SLI or DLD can have significant impact on a person’s emotional wellbeing if their communication difficulties continually lead to frustration, low self-esteem or social anxiety.

How can we help people with Specific Language Impairment (SLI)?

At Care Speech Pathology, our therapists play a crucial role in the assessment and treatment of SLI or DLD.

Step 

We will start by completing a comprehensive assessment to determine if the person or child has SLI (now known as DLD), and how it is impacting their communication. Assessment may include gathering information from about developmental history, standardised tests, informal assessment of language samples and observations of communication and understanding of language in different contexts. The child or person will likely be referred for a hearing test if they haven’t had one recently in order to rule out any hearing difficulties that could be impacting their language development.

Step 

We can then plan individualised treatment based on the person’s specific strengths and needs. Treatment will use various strategies to address language difficulties. Treatment will vary but will likely involve activities to expand vocabulary and grammar and involve lots of modelling and feedback. Social communication skills such as turn taking, having conversations, and understanding social contexts, may also be enhanced through stories, explicit teaching, games and role play. Activities to target speech sound errors will be included if relevant. Progress will be monitored and treatment adjusted as required.

Step 

The speech pathologist will likely collaborate with parents and/or trusted family members to provide guidance, strategies and activities that can be incorporated into daily routines and interactions to enhance the person’s communication abilities at school, at work, or at home. For example, the speech pathologist can make recommendations to teachers that will support your child to better understand what is said to them at school and to be able to express themself more effectively in the classroom.

Remember: SLI (now known as DLD) is a developmental disorder. This means that signs first appear in childhood but language challenges are likely to continue into adulthood. Evidence-based early intervention is the best way to support children with SLI/DLD to become the best learners and communicators they can be.

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