Policy Papers

Policy papers connect research with policy through focusing on a specific piece of research and explaining its relevance for policy. The link to policy can range from pointing out conclusions and lessons for practice through to discussion of existing policies and practices and formulation of policy recommendations. In all cases the emphasis is on providing research evidence for criticising, endorsing or proposing a policy.


Is it possible to differentiate multilingual children and children with DLD?

  • The language profiles of monolingual children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and typically developing multilingual children can overlap, presenting similar paths and delays in learning specific aspects of language in comparison with typically developing monolingual children of the same age.
  • In an increasingly multilingual society, it is essential to develop guidelines and tools for differentiating the two populations, avoiding both under- and over-diagnosis of language disorders in multilingual children.
  • Many multilingual children have a narrower vocabulary compared with monolinguals of the same age. Therefore, grammatical features are considered more reliable clinical markers of a possible disorder.
  • Clinical markers for children with DLD are language-specific. For example, in English-speaking children with DLD, verb endings may be omitted, as in “*Mary cook it”. For Italian or French children with DLD, a reliable marker is therealisation of certain pronouns, as in Mary lo cucina, “Mary it cooks”, with omissions or substitution of the pronoun lo depending on age. 
  • Despite similarities between multilingual children and children with DLD, it is possible to distinguish between the two groups after multilingual children have at least two years of exposure to their second language (L2).
  • Multilingual children can learn their L2 fully, while this is generally not the case for monolingual children with DLD; however, children’s success in learning their L2 depends onlength of exposure to the language, the type of multi-language experience, and the structural relatedness of the two languages.
  • Clinicians need to be aware of the type of language experience, the length of exposure to the L2, the linguistic characteristics of the child’s first language (L1) and the specific clinical markers of DLD in all languages. 
  • DLD will affect all the languages of a multilingual child, so assessment of all the child’s languages – wherever possible – is helpful in teasing apart developmental differences and disorders.
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