Children with Developmental Language Disorder do catch up partially

Logopedist en kleuter © iStock/AndreaObzerova
© iStock/AndreaObzerova

Contrary to what has been assumed, children with severe developmental language disorder (DLD) do in fact partially catch up upon their delays in language development. This was observed by researcher and speech and language therapist Gerda Bruinsma, Professor of Speech Therapy Ellen Gerrits and Professor of Psycholinguistics Frank Wijnen in their research at the Institute for Language Sciences.

Catching up upon delays

“The fact that language skills develop was already known from previous research, but until now it was usually found that children with DLD do not catch up with their peers,” Gerda Bruinsma says. “It is remarkable that in our study this did happen partially.”

Gerda Bruinsma
Gerda Bruinsma

Bruinsma, together with Ellen Gerrits and Frank Wijnen, conducted her research at Auris and Kentalis, two institutions for the education of children with DLD. “We used data from school files of preschool children with DLD to determine the progress in language skills during one school year.”

Special education

The study focused on different groups of children with DLD. One of those groups consisted of multilingual children, to whom little research has been done. Bruinsma, Gerrits, and Wijnen found that they showed as much progress in their language development as monolingual children.

The researchers also looked at children with complex language problems and those with lower average intelligence. Unlike what is commonly believed, they too showed as much progress as the other children.

All these children can make good use of special educational support, the three researchers argue. “However, these groups are not always admitted to special education or are referred to other organisations because there is a perception that they do not benefit sufficiently from special education,” Bruinsma says. “Our research shows that this is not justified.”

These children would not benefit sufficiently from special education. Our research shows that this idea is unjustified.

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

In their study, Bruinsma, Gerrits, and Wijnen analysed data from a group of children with severe, persistent DLD. DLD is a neurocognitive developmental disorder in which language processing is not optimal. “This means that children with DLD do not sufficiently recognise patterns in language input from the environment,” Bruinsma explains. “As a result, there is no adequate basis for understanding language and starting to use it.”

Bruinsma, Gerrits, and Wijnen have published an article in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. They expect their results can soon be used in practice. “Because we collaborated with practice partners, and because I myself train speech and language therapists as a lecturer at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, the results can quickly be put into practice by professionals working with children with DLD.”