Early childhood professionals’ understanding and action around developmental language disorder

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation onlypeer-review


Background: Early childhood professionals (ECPs, including early childhood educators and maternal child health nurses) are key referral agents for the early identification of developmental language disorder (DLD). However, little is known about the current understanding and actions made by these professionals in relation to DLD.
Aims: To investigate how ECPs define language disorders and their actions when encountering a child that they suspect of having a DLD.
Method: This study draws upon a survey of 559 ECPs. Quantitative data were analysed using SPSS and qualitative data were analysed using a content analysis in NVivo.
Results: ECPs provided diverse definitions of their understanding of a language disorder. While some were able to accurately define a language disorder in the same way that a speech-language pathologist (SLP) would do, many defined it as a difficulty resulting from learning a language other than English or multilingualism. Among the respondents, 61.5% stated that they had previously worked with a child who had a language disorder (based on their definition). In addressing their concerns, 86.5% spoke to the child’s parent, 68.4% implemented support strategies, 49.4% referred to a speech-language pathologist, 44.8% looked up research and information and 36.2% spoke to a more senior colleague. Just 40.0% of early childhood professionals felt they had received sufficient training to identify and support communication disorders in children.
Conclusion: These findings have significant implications for the speech-language pathology profession. SLPs only become involved in the support of children with DLD when they are identified and referred to services. If ECPs are not well trained and supported in understanding and identifying DLD, children will continue to miss this key window of early intervention.


Conference1st International Developmental Language Disorder Research Conference
Abbreviated titleFrom evidence to impact
OtherIDLDRC is an international, virtual event from 20-22 September (#IDLDRC), providing a
platform to share research about Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) globally.
IDLDRC aims to address the roadblocks to sharing the learning and insights that sit in
the hands of a few, but could potentially change the lives of people with DLD.
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