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Services for young people and adults with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) in the UK


1st supervisor: Prof Vicky Joffe

Research Centres

Centre for Language and Communication Research

Project description

In spite of the pervasiveness of language disorder, and its long term academic, social, emotional and economic impact, little is known about this condition in adults. This research aims to investigate the needs of adults with DLD and the services available to them. Research increasingly links impaired language and literacy with poorer long term outcomes; lower educational attainment and employment prospects, increased likelihood of accessing the criminal justice system and social, emotional and mental health difficulties. The recently introduced SEND Code of Practice extended the commission of health, education and social care from 18 to 25 years but the extent to which speech and language therapy (SLT) services have been developed for this older age group is unclear, as is the availability of services for adults with DLD over 25 years.


1) To investigate the needs and current SLT and specialist services to older children and adults with DLD, from the perspectives of a range of stakeholders (professionals working with this group, clients and family members, through an online survey and semi-structured interviews

2) Carry out and evaluate the effectiveness of a language intervention directly related to the needs of the client, as specified from the survey and interview data, through three single case studies.


A cross sectional research design will use purposive sampling, and Qualtrics online software, to explore the perspectives of key stakeholders about services provided to young people and adults with DLD.  Data analysis will draw on a mixed methods approach. From the survey, a small number of adults with DLD will be invited to participate in interviews, exploring their views.  This information will be used to plan three intervention case studies, integrating the principles of evidence-based practice; client preference, research evidence and clinical expertise and Solution Focussed Brief Therapy.

Potential for a field of strong candidates: Recently there has been a renewed interest into DLD, precipitated by a change in terminology and diagnostic and prognostic indicators. There is also a greater awareness of the social and emotional impact of early language difficulties and its pervasiveness into adulthood. Hence, it is envisaged that there will be a very strong and competitive interest in this topic area.

If you would like to have an informal discussion please contact V.Joffe@city.ac.uk.