This study explores limitations in communication in daily life of children with developmental language disorder (DLD) from their parents' perspective as well as communicative abilities and social functioning in the classroom from their teacher's perspective. Furthermore, differences between children with mixed receptive–expressive disorder and children with expressive-only disorder in communication in daily life and social functioning are studied.
Data were collected through questionnaires completed by parents and teachers of children (5–6 years old) who attended schools for special education for DLD. Language test scores were retrieved from school records. Parents of 60 children answered open-ended questions about situations and circumstances in which their child was most troubled by language difficulties. Teachers of 83 children rated communicative abilities, social competence, and student–teacher relationship.
Parents reported communication with strangers as most troublesome and mentioned the influence of the mental state of their child. Parents considered limitations in expressing oneself and being understood and not being intelligible as core difficulties. Teachers rated the children's communicative abilities in the school context as inadequate, but their scores concerning social competence and the quality of teacher–child relationships fell within the normal range. Children with receptive–expressive disorder experienced limitations in communication in almost all situations, whereas those with expressive disorder faced limitations in specific situations. Children with receptive–expressive disorder were also significantly more limited in their communicative abilities and social competence at school than children with expressive disorder. No differences were found between the two groups in the quality of the teacher–child relationship.
The results confirm that children with DLD face significant challenges in a variety of communicative situations. We found indications that children with receptive–expressive disorder experience more severe limitations than children with expressive disorder. The involvement of parents and teachers in evaluating a child's communicative ability provides valuable and clinically relevant information.