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Developmental Language Disorder and 'The Language Explorer'

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According to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), 7.58% of our children are affected by Developmental Language Disorder.  DLD is a type of Speech, Language and Communication Need (SLCN) that affects the way that children understand and use language.  DLD increases the risk of a range of negative impacts on education, employment, and social and emotional problems.  The good news is that appropriate support can make a difference.


This useful video gives more information about DLD: 



The role of Speech and Language Therapists in supporting the development of children with additional needs cannot be understated.  I’ve seen first-hand, working in a school for children with complex needs how their knowledge and shared strategies can impact hugely on a child’s life – and provide practitioners in nurseries and schools with lifelong understanding of how they can appropriately support these children.


It is the role of a Speech and Language Therapist to diagnose DLD, and currently the process of assessment can take approximately 45 minutes.  At present there is an innovative collaboration taking place between Therapy Box, the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit, Newcastle University and three NHS sites in Hackney, Newcastle and Bristol.  The project started in November 2019 and will take place across two years, with the aim of developing an app that will make the process of assessing children for DLD much quicker.  The Language Explorer is a free story-retelling app that aims to learn about children’s language and communication abilities. It plans to achieve this by collecting data on how children between the ages of 4 and 8 perform on its three assessments: story retell, comprehension and repetition.  It has been designed with children to ensure it is engaging, and to make sure the language used is suitable for its audience. After creating your profile, you will first listen to the story. You will then be asked to retell the story in your own words, complete a quiz and play a repeating game. Once you’ve completed all three challenges, you have the option to listen back to your story and play a game where you steer your ship to collect as many treasure coins as possible, making sure to avoid dangerous rocks!


The team behind the project are hoping for 600 children between the ages of 4-8 to use the app and record their stories.  They want children to take part from a range of backgrounds and areas to ensure the information that they gather is as useful as possible.


The potential benefits of a collaboration of this nature could be far reaching.  If successful, it is hoped that the assessment of a child who may be affected by DLD could be reduced from 45 minutes to 15 minutes.  The time saved is obviously significant, but the major benefits will come when the saved time can be used to work directly with the child and their parents/teachers to support their learning.  Many parents and teachers will tell you that 30 minutes of a Speech and Language Therapists time is very precious, which gives an indication of how highly respected the role is and how impactful their work can be.  If you know of any 4-8 year olds who would like to support this project by taking part in the story telling activity, you can download the Language Explorer in the App Store or Google Play (I can personally advocate that my 4 year old loved it!).


You can learn more about The Language Explorer App and the research behind it by listening to our podcast with Rebecca Bright from Therapy Box and Dr Yvonne Wren, Director of Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol Faculty of Health Sciences. 


Stephen Kilgour, Tapestry and FSF SEND Advisor. 

Edited by Jules

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