What is developmental language disorder

Several terms have been used in the past to name this disorder (audimutity, dysphasia, primary language disorder). In 2017, an international group of experts in language disorder proposed adopting the term “Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)”.

Developmental language disorder, formerly known as dysphasia, is a neurological disorder that occurs from birth . It is an invisible disorder, sometimes difficult to recognize and affects 7.5% of the population. This disorder essentially poses certain problems in terms of oral expression and comprehension.

However, it can also affect other functions such as:

  • Planning
  • The organization
  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Attention

Here are some signs not to be overlooked in connection with oral comprehension:

  • A less rich vocabulary;
  • Misinterpretation of abstract words (similar, most);
  • Some difficulty recognizing the meaning of interrogative words (where, when, how,);
  • Difficulty understanding words that refer to time and space (top, bottom, left, right,);
  • Difficulty understanding nuances;
  • Language acquisition starts later;
  • The various stages of language development start longer;
  • Your child understands gestures better than your words and yet he is not deaf;
  • Your child has difficulty adapting to changes;
  • He designates things with gestures

0 to 5 years

  • At 18 months old: your child does not seek to communicate and does not imitate sounds and words
  • At 2 years old: he has difficulty understanding the instructions and questions of everyday life or does not use two words together (dad left)
  • At 3 years old: your toddler does not understand several abstract words (below, red, three, after) or does not make small sentences.
  • At 4 years old: he has difficulty holding a conversation or he only makes short sentences containing errors.
  • At 5 years old: your child can’t explain and tell something or he expresses himself as a younger child.

These signs indicate language difficulties, but not necessarily a developmental language disorder. You can contact your CLSC. Our Association is also here to help direct you to the right resources.

5 to 12 years old

Language classes
The target clientele is between  5 to 12 years old. Students in language classes have a significant communication disorder related to severe DLD. All students referred to language classes must meet the MELS  criteria for the diagnostic of severe DLD.

The student may present several learning characteristics:

  • Very slow evoluation of language
  • Major communication difficulty on the expressive/receptive level
  • Problem with perception, memory or auditory discrimination
  • Trouble perceiving and organizing time
  • Deficient spatial organization
  • Difficulty in generalizing abstraction
  • Difficulty acquiring basic knowledge and retaining acquisitions
  • Gross and fine motor problems
  • Difficulty learning without visual or gestural support

The student may present many of the following characteristics on personal and behavioral level:

  • Lack of autonomy * lack of maturity*
  • Major difficulty in understanding what is expected of him *possible difficulty in creating links with other students*
  • Lack of attention *difficulty adapting*
  • The general objective is to develop the receptive and expressive aspects of language, while promoting the development of skills through the adaptation communication and teaching strategies in order to prepare the reintegration of students into regular classes.


  • Improve the degree of verbal comprehension * Connect with others*
  • Improve phonological and syntactic production * Develop strategies to improve attention in the classroom
  • Organize and express thoughts well * Learn to ask questions*
  • Improve vocabulary and sentence building * Improve fine motor skills to better understand
  • Directing attention to understand what is being said *Possible progress*
  • Develop gross motor skills and spatial orientation

Possible path:
Integrate an ordinary class, an adapt class or continue in a language class.

12 to 17 years old

High school language class
Eligibility criteria:

  • Speech-Language Pathologist’s conclusion: Language Impairment
  • Assessment of cognitive potential showing non-verbal potential within average limits
  • Failure to meet the minimum requirements for the 3rd cycle of primary school in French and/or mathematics
  • Persistence and severity of the disorder, preventing the student from performing the school tasks normally offered to young people of his age, namely: verbal interactions, both in terms of expression and understanding, socialization, school learning, no significant progress in terms of learning has been noted although support measures have been put in place as part of an established intervention plan over a minimum period of six months.

Program Specification: The nature and severity of language disabilities vary from individual to individual.

Characteristic of a language class

. Students with severe DLD (dysphasia)

· Small size class (10 to 12 students)

· Adapted teaching materials.

· The team of teachers consists of a teacher in school adaptation and specialists in subjects such as physical education, English, science and art.

· Different professionals: speech therapist, psychologist, psycho educator.

· In French, mathematics and English, the education provided considers the level reached by the student in primary school, allowing him to progress at his own pace.

For the other disciplines, the teaching provided is that of the Quebec school program of the 1st cycle of secondary school. After 3 years in language classes in secondary school, the student is directed to different programs:

  • FMS training
  • FPT training

The MELS website contains the directory of semi-skilled trades in which students will have to choose an internship: http://www.mels.gouv.qc.ca/sections/metiers/
Information on the program: http://www.mels.gouv.qc.ca/sections/parcoursformation/

Resources to help you:

  • CLSC (a respite grant, may be requested)
  • AUDIOLOGY (test for the assessment of deafness)
  • SPEECH PATHONIST (diagnostic)
  • SPECIALIZED SHOP (games, pictograms)