Developmental language disorders (DLD) are types of communication disorders  that can affect both language comprehension (receptive language) and language use (expressive language). The child may find it difficult to express him- or herself with correct grammar, choice of words and pronunciation and may also find it difficult to understand and interpret what he/she hears.

About 4-7 % of the preschool children has a language disorder. A developmental language disorder does not pass over but the characteristics may change over time. Children with language disorders need a lot of help and support from the surroundings to be able to learn and develop.

The child may also need speech- and language treatment. Approximately 60% of children who see a speech- and language therapist later receive a neuropsychiatric diagnosis such as autism, ADHD/ADD or a developmental disorder. One of the first symptoms of neuropsychiatric difficulties is often a delayed language development and the child is therefore often first referred to a speech- and language pathologist (SLP). 

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that causes the child to silence in some social demanding situations. About 30 % of the children with selective mutism also has a language disorder

What interventions become necessary depends entirely on the difficulties the child has. It is important that these children are detected early in life in order to get the right support and to reduce the risk of developing low self-esteem and self-destructive behavior.

Early signs of a language disorder: 

– The child has a delayed language development and does not start speaking at the expected age.
– The child has difficulty understanding questions and verbal instructions.
– The child may find it difficult to learn the names of friends and later struggle to may at the school age find it difficult to master knowledge, such as weekdays or months.
– The child expresses him or herself with incomplete grammar and may have difficulty with various inflections. For example, the child may say “dog black” instead of “a black dog”.
– The child leaves out or flips words in sentences.
– The child has difficulty pronouncing words.

Note that some of the above mentioned characteristics are also included in normal language development in children of a certain age. See the information under typical language development.