Language impairment

Seven percent of the population has a Speech Language Impairment (SLI). SLI is a neurological developmental impairment, with a genetical component. People with SLI have difficulties in developing their language, whereas the general development, hearing and intelligence show no problems.

This means for example that people with SLI have difficulty remembering and learning words or sentences. It is an invisible disability, which often leads to misunderstanding and has consequences for behavior and participation. SLI also is too often confused with, for example general language delay, dyslexia or autism.

These are important signals how to recognize SLI among children:

  • the child knows just a few words
  • the child has trouble saying a word
  • the child is poorly understood
  • the child makes a lot of mistakes when making sentences
  • the child makes very short sentences
  • the child misunderstands others often
  • the child does not seem to listen
  • the child is very quiet and talks little
  • the child gets angry when not understood

Download the poster, available in 7 languages
Poster How to recognize anguage impairment. 

Multilingual children

Lack of knowledge about language acquisition in multilingual children makes it hard to distinguish between typical development, a deprivation in language or a language impairment in multilingual children. Multilingualism does not cause Language Impairment, in fact there is evidence that multilingualism gives certain cognitive benefits. Since assessment of both languages is hard to accomplish there is a risk for both over- and underdiagnosis. In the case of underdiagnosis, it can result in persisting language and learning disabilities, and also secondary problems such as socio-emotional difficulties. In the case of overdiagnosis, children receive inappropriate services. In both cases this leads to inefficient use of resources. The mismatch between the languages spoken by professionals and child thus needs to be addressed today. Read our Position Statement here.