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Myths About Developmental Language Disorders (DLD)

​​Karla K. McGregor, Ph.D.
Boys Town National Research Hospital

Incorrect ideas about DLD

Myths, misunderstandings, and half-truths make it hard for people who have Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) get the help they need. Let's set the record straight!

MYTH: People with DLD mispronounce speech sounds.

TRUTH: People with DLD have trouble  understanding and using language, when they are reading and when they are talking with someone. 

Language is the words and grammar that people use to communicate ideas. Speech is moving the mouth, throat, and lungs to make words. DLD is not a speech problem. It is a problem using language. A person with DLD may have clear speech but still have a hard time understanding the words that she hears or reads or a hard time figuring out the right words and grammar to say what she wants.​

MYTH: People with DLD don't speak proper English.

TRUTH: People with DLD have trouble learning English (or any other language).

There are many different dialects of English and they are all valid systems for communicating. DLD is not a dialect. The person with DLD will produce language that is incomplete, inconsistent, or immature compared to peers within his OWN dialect community.

Myth: People with DLD are not smart.

TRUTH: DLD affects people at all levels of intellectual ability. 

DLD is not an intellectual disability. People with DLD may be very smart but they will sometimes have difficulty expressing what they know.

Myth: Bilingualism causes DLD.

TRUTH: Bilingualism is beneficial. 

DLD affects people who speak only one language and people who speak more than one language. There are social and cognitive benefits to becoming bilingual and parents who want to raise their children to be bilingual should not worry that they will cause DLD.

Myth: Poor parenting causes DLD.

TRUTH: Genetic influences on brain development cause DLD. 

The ways that parents speak or read to their children do not cause DLD. That said, sometimes it is hard to talk to a child who has limited language abilities. A speech-language pathologist can teach parents how to adapt their own talking and reading to enhance their child's language development and to maintain positive communicative interactions with their child. Parents don't cause the problem, but they can be part of the solution. ​

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References

Bornstein, M. H., Hahn, C. S., & Haynes, O. M. (2004). Specific and general language performance across early childhood: Stability and gender considerations. First Language24(3), 267-304.

Hoff, E. (2006). How social contexts support and shape language development. Developmental review26(1), 55-88.

Tomblin, J. B., Records, N. L., Buckwalter, P., Zhang, X., Smith, E., & O'Brien, M. (1997). Prevalence of specific language impairment in kindergarten children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research40(6), 1245-1260.