2022 Fall Community Lecture Takeaways 

The Windward School and The Windward Institute recently welcomed Tiffany Hogan, PhD, CCC-SLP to present the 2022 Fall Community Lecture. Dr. Hogan, an esteemed researcher in the field of language and reading, presented Developmental Language Disorder: The Highly Prevalent Learning Disabilities Hidden in Plain Sight.

You can watch the recording of the lecture here.

The lecture was timely as recently reported drops in reading proficiency and decades of discouraging literacy rates nationwide demonstrate the need to address childhood literacy through a comprehensive lens. Read and watch key highlights from Dr. Hogan’s presentation and learn about steps you can take to support children with developmental language disorder (DLD) in their classrooms and at home. 

What to know about language development, DLD, and dyslexia 

1. The role of language in reading development 

While language is a complex construct, the primary language skills involved in reading point to the following: 

  • Form: the structure of language including the phonology or sounds of words
  • Pragmatics: the social use of language
  • Content: vocabulary and syntax of language  

“Language has everything to do with the foundational skills of reading.” 

The skills involved in pragmatics and content are foundational in the development of language and reading comprehension.

2. Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) 

DLD is a lifelong, brain difference that results in difficulty with oral discourse, learning and using new vocabulary, and understanding language. Although the term “developmental language disorder” was coined in 2017, this disability has been documented across time and has been referred to using other terms such as specific language impairment and expressive/receptive language disorder. This disorder occurs across every language and country around the world, impacting about 2 children in every classroom.  

The characteristics of DLD present differently during childhood. Late talking is one indicator of possible DLD in the toddler years, while immature grammar may emerge in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. In elementary school, children with DLD may have difficulty retelling a story. 

3. DLD and Dyslexia  

DLD and dyslexia demonstrate similar characteristics across a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. However, they differ in their primary deficit. While children with dyslexia have a primary deficit in word reading, children with DLD have a primary deficit in language. Research shows about 50% of children with dyslexia or DLD with present with both disorders.  

"Almost all poor readers will have some early speech and language delays."

What we do now: Action steps at School and Home

  1. Raise awareness. 

There are many factors that inhibit greater awareness of DLD. For example, DLD has been called by other names and myths about its characteristics exist.  Raising awareness about DLD will contribute to a better understanding of neurodiversity across our populations of students.  

  1. Establish early, consistent, and reliable screening measures for early language difficulties. 

Only about 20% of children with DLD are identified in early childhood and elementary school. Reliable screening can detect both word reading difficulties present in dyslexia and oral language challenges demonstrated in DLD.  

  1. Combine early screening with evidence-based core reading and language instruction. 

Evidence-based instruction should comprehensively stimulate both word level reading and language comprehension. Dr. Hogan identified key malleable factors to target with explicit instruction: 

  • Vocabulary 

  • Grammar (in context) 

  • Inferential reasoning 

  • Schema activation (background knowledge) 

  • Comprehension monitoring 

  • Text structure knowledge (story grammar and expository graphic organizers) 

  1. Support language and literacy development at home. 

Caregivers can support language development at home, specifically targeting the needs of children with DLD, by using many of the same techniques applicable in the classroom. 

  • Stimulate language through daily routines. 

  • Allow extra time to process language. 

  • Face the child when engaging in conversation. 

  • Break down larger information into chunks. 

  • Make clear and specific statements and rephrase/ repeat as necessary.  

  • Encourage discussion about DLD around the child. 

In addition to delivering the 2022 Fall Community Lecture, Dr. Hogan is now a new faculty member at The Windward Institute. 

Learn more from Dr. Hogan from the following resources and opportunities below: 

Lecture Recording

READ Podcast Episode 38: DLD, Language, and Systemic Change in Reading with Dr. Tiffany Hogan 

READ Podcast Episode 6: “See Her Speak”: Discussing DLD with Dr. Tiffany Hogan