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(UK) Belfast: 8% of kids have language disorder; mom wants awareness/support

Oct 16, 2022, Love Belfast: Leading health and educational professionals attend East Belfast mother’s Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) event as part of a worldwide awareness day today
Sue McBride drew attention to the poor educational and employment outcomes for the 7.58% of children living here with DLD in a bid to raise much-needed awareness of this neurodevelopmental disorder

An East Belfast mother of four, two of whom have special educational needs, brought together a range of leading health and educational professionals, departmental representatives and the Children’s Commissioner of Northern Ireland, to raise awareness of, and issues surrounding developmental language disorder (DLD).

Sue McBride, who is currently studying a Masters in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Conditions, hosted the event today (Friday 14 October), supported by Thornfield House School, a school in Newtownabbey where 40% of the children have a diagnosis of DLD.

Mrs McBride’s son, Corey, aged ten attends Thornfield House, a regional specialist Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) school in Northern Ireland.

In order to raise awareness for those living with DLD in primary and post-primary settings, and parent support, Mrs McBride hosted her event as part of the global DLD Day 2022 which has the running theme ‘Growing with DLD’….

Mrs McBride, who also works for SENsations, a not-for-profit company based in East Belfast that provides independent education support services for children and young people, said her event aimed to draw attention to a shortage in provisions and moreso a lack of understanding.

Recent research has shown that, on average, two children in every class of thirty will experience DLD severe enough to hinder academic progress. She is keen to promote the importance of working together and listening to the parent’s voices to engage and make positive change.

She said: “I am delighted that so many of the professionals over a range of services accepted the invitation to attend the Developmental Language Awareness Day and see the challenges that our children and young people can face. …

She continued: “Over 10% of children have speech, language, and communication needs, 7.58% of children (which equates to two in every class of thirty) start school with DLD. A further 2.34% of children start school with a language disorder linked to or co-occurring with another condition. This number increases in disadvantaged areas, where it is estimated 50% of school-aged children have a speech, language and communication need.

“81% of children with emotional and behavioural disorders also have unidentified language difficulties and 23% of school pupils in NI have Special Educational Needs with SLCN are among the most reported SEN for all children, and the most common SEN for children with a statement.

“66% of pupils at risk of exclusion from school were found to have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) – some studies of excluded boys have found this to be higher.

“Statistics also show that 80% of young, unemployed men have an unidentified SLCN. These harrowing figures tell us that widespread action is needed to enable professionals over a range of disciplines to further support these children and their families for the sake of their education and their future lives….

The key themes Mrs McBride highlighted at the event were: raising the understanding and knowledge of teaching staff in this relatively unheard-of disorder, the importance of collaboration which includes listening to parents’ views and concerns and additional support for families in understanding DLD.

She added: “If I can ask for one outcome of us all being gathered for this event, it’s that we continue to work together and that our professionals are educated on DLD, its presentation and how it can impact the child and young personal from an educational, emotional, and future outcome point of view. This will lead to a wider understanding of parental concerns, which in turn will help build these vital relationships, boost confidence and most importantly better outcomes for our children’s futures.”

Attendees at the DLD Day event at Thornfield House School included Louise Creighton, Acting VP/Senco and Brid Tate, Clinical SLT Lead of Thornfield House School; staff from the Education Authority and Department of Education; Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People; and Ruth Sedgewick, Head of RCSLT NI (Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), the professional body for speech and language therapists in the UK.

Head of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists NI, Ruth Sedgewick said: “More awareness of developmental language disorder is urgently needed to ensure that early identification is achieved, and children receive timely support for their needs. This has come into sharper focus after attending the event today at Thornfield House School to mark DLD awareness day.

“Speech and language therapy is among the most required support for children with DLD. Our members teach strategies to the child and those around them to help reduce the impact of their communication difficulties and ultimately support them to access education and social activities.

“It this reason why we call upon the Departments of Health and Education to work together and commission more SLT training places to ensure that all those living with a speech, language and communication difficulty have appropriate access to essential intervention.” Mrs Creighton, Acting VP/SENCo of Thornfield House, added:

“Thornfield are very proud of our children who present with DLD. The children are learning to live and grow with DLD through the use of supportive strategies to help them achieve their potential going into their future.”


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