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Developing use and understanding of language

Some children find it difficult to follow instructions, or to understand specific aspects of language, for example concepts such as ‘before’ or ‘under’. Most children are able to develop their talking with the right support at home and in their education setting.
Some children find it difficult to follow instructions, or to understand specific aspects of language, for example concepts such as ‘before’ or ‘under’. Other children find it difficult to put words together into sentences as we would expect for their age. They may have lots of words but find it hard to put them in the right order, or they may find it difficult to use specific aspects of language, for example pronouns (he, she, they). Most children are able to develop their talking with the right support at home and in their education setting.


Children with significant difficulties using language over the age of 5 may be diagnosed with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). These difficulties are NOT a direct result of a specific medical condition such as cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, Autism or severe learning difficulties. There is no known cause for DLD but scientists think that the part of the brain responsible for speech and language might be wired a little differently although this doesn’t show up on a brain scan. Genes may also play a part in DLD but there is no medical test to confirm this.


DLD affects approximately two children in every classroom in primary school (about 7.6%) and is more common in boys than girls.

A child with DLD may have lots of ideas and knowledge but have significant difficulties with all or some of the following skills :

• understanding and remembering instructions
• understanding questions
• finding the right words
• putting words into sentences
• pronouncing words clearly
• making themselves understood

1. Understanding Early Concepts - Prepositions

Prepositions describe the position of an object or person. Some children have particular difficulties learning these concepts and need to be shown and
taught them.

2. Activities to Develop Understanding of Single Words

A child who understands single words knows the name of an object and can give it to you on request, for example “give me the car”.

3. Activities to Help Understanding of Spoken Language At Two Key Word Level

After children are able to understand a range of single spoken words they will start to be able to understand two key words (often called ‘information-carrying words’) in a sentence they hear.

4. Using Action Words

Children’s first sentences often contain object words like “my juice” or “mummy apple”. To use longer spoken sentences, children need to use action words like ‘eating’, ‘sleeping’ and ‘jumping’. To help your child you can use action words during everyday activities in short, simple sentences.

5. Activities to help develop First Words

After children are able to understand a range of single spoken words they will start to be able to understand two key words (often called ‘information-carrying words’) in a sentence they hear.