TP-Issue14.5 | 41 F EATURES SEND Language skills are crucial for accessing higher level, more abstract learning concepts. If a child doesn’t have an effective internal dialogue, for example, then they’ll struggle to work out a maths problem by talking it through in their head. Planning and compiling a narrative becomes similarly problematic, causing children to struggle at the very first step of a literacy task. If DLD isn’t addressed at primary school then these issues will follow the child into adulthood, impacting upon their mental health and wellbeing. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists found that a third of children with untreated communication needs will go on to develop subsequent mental health problems. How to spot it Despite its prevalence and impact, DLD can be tough to identify, but there are definite clues. If a child demonstrates some of the behaviours described above, and tends towards using more functional language over sophisticated concepts, there may be an issue. Think of the child who might say, “Doing the thing with the water,” rather than “Pouring the water” or “Using the watering can.” In other cases, children with DLDmay find it difficult to retell a simple narrative. The pupil who often can’t describe what they did at the weekend could potentially have DLD. The waiting time to access speech and language therapy services can vary across the UK, but early identification and intervention is a key predictor in closing the gap for pupils with DLD. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve teamed up with GL Assessment to develop a simple screening tool and interventions resource book calledWellCommPrimary, which can be used with all children in a class to identify those at risk of having DLD. It ensures that if there are any suspicions, work can begin immediately on helping struggling students develop their vocabulary, grammar, narrative and social skills while a referral is processed. Ideas to try Using prompts and visual material, such as word webs, can help a child get the name of something right and then start building the new word into their conversations. Use of symbols, task plans and visual timetables can further support pupils who experience difficulty with following instructions and retaining verbal information. We’ve found that giving pupils choices when asking them to narrate something can also help, as it’s a useful way of demonstrating the language a pupil might need if they get stuck. If a child struggles to explain what they did at the weekend or during an activity, provide themwith suggestions and options: “Did you stay in or did you go out this weekend?” or “Did you complete the worksheet about telling the time, or the worksheet about days of the week?”. This gives the child a chance to get started with their story and structure their ideas. Another way of offering support to children with DLD is to pre-teach the vocabulary they’ll need before starting an activity. Word webs work well here, as DLD sufferers often find it demanding to listen to new vocabulary, remember it and store it efficiently in their memory. This can result in the pupil missing out on the learning that follows, since they’ll require longer to grasp the basic vocabulary making up a new topic or lesson. Using word webs or mind maps in this way, and devoting time to teaching the new vocabulary for a topic or lesson beforehand, will make a vast difference to a pupil’s learning. Addressing DLD early on can help pupils catch up with their peers, equip themwith the tools they’ll need to make friends and seriously improve their future life chances. TP Naomi Reed is a speech and language therapist at Sandwell andWest BirminghamHospitals NHS Trust, and one of the authors of GL Assessment’sWellComm Primary Toolkit. “The pupil who often can’t describe what they did at the weekend could potentially have DLD”