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The IASLT Working Group at the launch of the Position Paper at Croke Park in Dublin

Posted by | Administration Officer | Date: 29 Jun 2017 | 14:30pm

Date: 29/06/17

The Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists (IASLT) Launch Position Paper on Supporting Children with Developmental Language Disorder in Ireland

Developmental language disorder (DLD) is a common but not widely-known and often unidentified condition 1. It is estimated to affect at least two children in every primary school class 2 and 70,000 children in Ireland. Children with DLD can struggle to understand what is said to them and to be understood.  DLD is often mistaken for poor behaviour and complicated by co-occurring attention, motor and other difficulties. Given the multiple needs of children with DLD, in a newly launched position statement on DLD, the IASLT (Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists) argue that collaboration between policy makers, speech and language therapists, educators, parents and other relevant professionals is essential to ensure proper identification of needs and provision of supports. This is particularly critical in the context of the new general allocation model 3, the new primary language curriculum 4 and in proposals to implement in-school models of speech and language therapy 5

Across several population-wide and clinical studies, DLD has been shown to have long term and detrimental effects on social, emotional, mental health and academic functioning. Children who enter primary school with speech and language difficulties are more likely to have persistent difficulties. Due to the language-learning difficulty underpinning DLD, long-term support beyond early intervention is often required. 

Data from focus groups of parents and children and a nationwide survey of SLTs by IASLT combined with an extensive review of literature, informed the new IASLT position paper on DLD launched at IASLT’s recent biannual conference in Dublin.  Niamh Davis, chair of IASLT, stated "Disappointingly, issues we reported in a 2007 position statement, including gaps in service delivery, poor awareness of the long-term needs of children with DLD, and use of inappropriate criteria for identification and access to services, have persisted".   Inconsistency in descriptive terms for these children’s needs has led to a recent international consensus to adopt the term DLD 6. Previously used terms, SSLI (specific speech and language impairment) and SSLD (specific speech and language disorder-currently used in education in Ireland) capture a small-narrowly defined group of children, ignoring the needs of many children encountered in clinical practice and in the classroom. 

A comprehensive action plan included in the position statement outlines several recommendations to ensure best outcomes for children with DLD. These include increasing knowledge and skills to support identification, providing adequate services and supports beyond primary school and widening criteria for access to specialist and intensive forms of provision. IASLT is currently establishing an implementation group whose first task is to organise stakeholder consultation and discussion. The position paper is available on IASLT’s website in the public information section. 


IASLT (2017) Supporting Children with Developmental Language Disorder in Ireland. Position Statement and Guidance document, (unless otherwise indicated)

1. Norbury, C & Broddle, E (2016) Equip-teachers-to-support-children-with-language-disorders-in-the-classroom, The Guardian.

2. Norbury, C. F., Gooch, D., Wray, C., Baird, G., Charman, T., Simonoff, E., . . . Pickles, A. (2016). The impact of nonverbal ability on prevalence and clinical presentation of language disorder: evidence from a population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(11), 1247-1257. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12573


4. National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). (2016). Primary Language Curriculum.  Dublin: NCCA

5. Department of the Taoiseach. (2016). A Programme for a Partnership Government.  Dublin Retrieved from

6  Bishop, D. V. M., Snowling, M. J., Thompson, P. A., Greenhalgh, T., & CATALISE-2consortium. (2017). Phase 2 of CATALISE: a multinational and multidisciplinary Delphi consensus study of problems with language development: Terminology. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12721

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