The Graduate Review


Developmental language disorder (DLD) is a life-long language condition characterized by difficulty using, learning, and understanding language across modalities (speaking, writing, reading) despite average cognitive and intellectual skills. There is no single cause of DLD, though research suggests a genetic component and environmental factors act as possible predictors. Although there is an incidence rate of around 2-3 students in each class of 30, DLD has very little awareness and is significantly under-researched. There are many factors contributing to this. Most notably, DLD is considered a hidden disability as many people learn to mask their symptoms pretty early in life through different self-taught strategies. For example, a case study following a preschooler describes her use of rhythmic gestures as facilitative for speech. The language skills involved and the severity will vary across people. However, the pervasive nature of these difficulties leads to persistent social, emotional, and behavioral concerns with significant effects on educational and career outcomes. A memoir by Damian Quinn details his experiences living with DLD and emphasizes the role of early identification and treatment in reducing adverse long-term outcomes. Targeted treatments and need-based support provided by the speech-language pathologist in collaboration across contexts and communication partners is also an imperative component of effective treatment. More evidence-based research and awareness are needed for DLD to create more uniform treatment guidelines. Given adequate and appropriate support as early as possible, people with DLD can live successful and fulfilling lives.

Note on the Author

Laura Gaudette is a double-bear pursuing her Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology. Her research was completed in the fall of 2021 under the mentorship of Dr. Margaret Kjelgaard as part of her capstone experience. Altruist family values have heavily influenced her career path, and she spent the past six years falling in love with speech pathology. Laura is inspired by the opportunities to address health, education, and other disparities that disproportionately affect people with communication/swallowing differences and disorders. Communication is a basic human right and she looks forward to a career of learning and advocating to uphold that message following graduation in May, 2022.