University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAutism and Developmental Language Impairments
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2019


Background: For many years research and practice have noted the impact of the heterogeneous nature of Developmental Language Disorder (also known as language impairment or specific language impairment) on diagnosis and assessment. Recent research suggests the disorder is not restricted to the language domain and against this background, the challenge for the practitioner is to provide accurate assessment and effective therapy. The language practitioner aims to support the child and their carers to achieve the best outcomes. However, little is known about the experiences of the language practitioner in the assessment process, in contrast to other childhood disorders, yet their expertise is central in the assessment and diagnosis of children with language disorder. Aims: This study aimed to provide a detailed qualitative description of the experiences of speech and language therapists involved in the assessment and diagnosis of children with Developmental Language Disorder. Methods & Procedures: The qualitative study included three focus groups to provide a credible and rich description of the experiences of speech and language therapists involved in the assessment of Developmental Language Disorder. The speech and language therapists who participated in the study were recruited from three NHS Trusts across the UK and all were directly involved in the assessment and diagnosis procedures. The lengths of practitioner experience ranged from 2 years to 38 years. The data was analysed using a thematic analysis in accordance with the principles set out by Braun & Clarke (2006). Outcomes & Results: The data showed a number of key themes concerning the experiences of speech and language therapists in assessing children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). These themes ranged from the participants’ experiences of the barriers to early referral, challenges for assessment and the concerns over continued future support. Conclusions & Implications: This study provides first-hand evidence from speech and language therapists in the assessment of children with Developmental Language Disorder, drawing together experiences from language practitioners from different regions. The findings provide insight to the barriers to referral, the potential variations in the assessment process, the role of practitioner expertise and the challenges faced them. The importance of early intervention, useful assessment tools and future support were expressed. Taken together, the results relate to some issues to be addressed on a practical level and a continuing need for initiatives to raise awareness of DLD in the public domain.


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