Book review: DLD and Me: Supporting Children and Young People with Developmental Language Disorder

DLD and Me: Supporting Children and Young People with Developmental Language Disorder. By Anna Sowerbutts and Amanda Finer. Reviewed by Dr Rachael Davis.

DLD and Me

Date published: 2020

Paperback price: £31.99

Link to book at Routledge publishers

Reviewer: Dr Rachael Davis, Research Fellow in the Salvesen Mindroom Research Group

Reviewer expertise: Developmental Psychologist with expertise in developmental conditions

What is the book about and who is it aimed at?

Anna Sowerbutts and Amanda Finer are specialist speech and language therapists who predominantly work with children with speech, language and communication disorders, including DLD. This book is a direct response to the lack of resources available to help children better understand DLD. The authors have created an engaging 12-week programme to help children with DLD identify their own strengths, areas in which they could benefit from additional support, and strategies for communication.

A brief description of the book

The book begins with two forwarding statements; the first by Professor Dorothy Bishop, a leading researcher in the field of DLD and language difficulties, and the second by Stephen Parsons, a specialist practitioner working with children with DLD. It is clear that this programme is providing a much-needed resource to empower and educate children, whilst incorporating lived experience and scientific evidence into a single framework.

The introductory chapter of the book focuses on what DLD is, providing a short, accessible summary and answers to some common questions. The programme itself is then split into twelve main sessions, with follow-up activities to be completed at home. The authors suggest strategies to involve additional family members in the programme where possible. The sessions fit into four broad categories:

  1. The first section, All About Me, is to provide children with the space to talk about themselves and their personality. This includes activities to think about their family structure, interests, things people can have in common, and introducing the idea of visible and invisible disabilities
  2. Communication and Language: this section is for children to consider the meaning of language versus communication, and to understand the ways in which we communicate verbally and non-verbally
  3. Understanding DLD: this section provides an opportunity for children to learn facts about what DLD is and isn’t
  4. Developing Supportive Strategies and Self-Advocacy: the final section prepares children to express their preferred strategies for talking, how to tell others about their DLD, and how to ask for support. I particularly like the communication support passport at the end of this section, where children can fill in a resource to introduce themselves, express what they might find difficult, and how they can be best supported.

Is the content in line with best practice or research evidence?

Although the authors don’t frequently cite academic papers within the content of the book itself, the authors are highly experienced and have worked extensively with children with DLD. It is also clear that they are engaged with the most recent evidence and guidelines; the programme is up-to-date in terms of what we know about DLD and the types of inclusive activities and resources that form the majority of the book.

This programme is supported by a body of evidence that the authors have provided in a glossary section at the end of the book. It is crammed full of resources, accessible for a range of different audiences. Alongside academic citations, the authors provide a considerable selection of relevant and easily accessed website and video links.

Who would this book be helpful for/who is its target reader?

DLD and me is designed for use with children aged between 9 and 16 with a diagnosis of DLD, but can be used with older or younger children, to be decided by the reader. The book has been designed to engage children and young people, and is packed full of in-class activities including quizzes, word searches and games.

Much of the programme is dedicated to self-awareness, aiming to build confidence in children by learning about themselves, and to build individual strategies for support and across multiple contexts. Eliciting the child’s perspective is at the heart of this programme, and I think it would be extremely helpful and beneficial for children with DLD.

The structure of this programme will also be helpful for educators and parents as it provides opportunities to better understand both the needs of the child taking part and DLD in general.

What is your final, overall opinion on the book?

The book is written in a positive and affirming way, and covers many important aspects of DLD. It is clear that the book is written by practitioners with extensive experience and understanding of the type of support that would be most beneficial for children with DLD, and is highly commended by, leading researchers in the field of language research.

I was particularly pleased to see that the programme could be run with students individually, or as a group, with flexible activities throughout. Crucially for me, the emphasis on the child’s perspective alongside the incorporation of training activities is what stands out. As Stephen Parsons says in the forward, “self-awareness for those with DLD needs to be considered a key part of intervention”. I would highly recommend this resource for schools to incorporate into lesson plans as an excellent support for children in the classroom and beyond.