Researchers have launched a campaign to end 200 years of confusion in diagnosing a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects two children in every classroom.

Following a five year campaign to raise awareness of language difficulties, the researchers are supporting a drive to agree a new, streamlined terminology that will make the ‘hidden condition’ easier to diagnose and ensure those affected receive specialist help.

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) will become the consensus term for language difficulties that can affect, on average, two children in every classroom. The condition can cause difficulties with spoken language, language understanding, communication, and reading, along with a high risk of dyslexia.

The campaign to raise awareness of language difficulties and agree DLD was led by Professor Dorothy Bishop (University of Oxford), Professor Gina Conti-Ramsden (The University of Manchester), Professor Courtenay Norbury (University College London), Professor Maggie Snowling (University of Oxford) and Becky Clark (RADLD Editor & Speech & Language Therapist, ClarkSLT). The campaign was launched because, despite nearly 200 years of professionals identifying language problems, there is still poor awareness of the condition relative to the frequency and severity of DLD. Most commonly, those affected are mistaken as being inattentive, having more general learning difficulties or poor behaviour.

Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at the University of Oxford: ‘For five years, we have been working to raise awareness of a hidden condition that affects around 7 per cent of children – two in every classroom. When a child has difficulty with communication, it has significant and lasting impact on every aspect of their development. This is why it is so important we address confusing terminology that has made it difficult for those affected to receive the help they need. Having reached agreement on Developmental Language Disorder, our hope is that we will make it easier for those affected to be diagnosed and receive the specialist support that can make such a difference.’

The complexity of DLD means that it can have a serious and long-term impact on development. According to The Manchester Language Study, 40% of those with DLD say that by age 16 they had difficulties interacting with their peers with half experiencing bullying during their childhood. Without diagnosis and specialist support, the impacts of DLD can last into adulthood by increasing the risk of unemployment and reducing the opportunity to be independent.

By increasing awareness and recognition of DLD, the ambition is to ensure any child affected is able to access specialist speech and language therapy and support they need. To help, the RADLD team has produced the ‘DLD 1-2-3’, an easy to use guide on the key facts about the condition.