Developmental Language Disorder and Neurodiversity: Surfacing Contradictions, Tensions and Unanswered Questions

Hannah Hobson, Umar Toseeb, Jenny Gibson

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Background: Neurodiversity is increasingly discussed in relation to autism research and practice. However, there is a lack of scholarship concerning the neurodevelopmental condition Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and the neurodiversity movement. While this movement may hold opportunities for the DLD community, the application of the concept of neurodiversity to DLD research and practice needs consideration, as DLD and autism have very different levels of public and professional awareness and understanding. Aims: In this article, we discuss what the concept of neurodiversity and the associated neurodiversity movement could mean for DLD research and practice. We aim to critique some assumptions that may arise from the application of neurodiversity principles (or assumed principles) to the field of DLD. Methods: This is a discussion paper, drawing on the personal experiences and reflections of the author team. Main contributions: We make the case for why DLD should be included in discussions about neurodivergence and outline considerations for doing so, and why some issues and applications may be particular to DLD. We outline points of similarity and contrast with autism in relation to our understanding of neurodiversity. We consider the issues around diagnosis and terminology, and urge practitioners to continue to diagnose DLD using currently agreed terminology, so as not to undermine recent awareness efforts. We note that a neurodiversity-informed perspective challenges us to offer interventions that operate at the level of our environments, not just at the level of an individual. Indeed, neurodiversity offers a platform to argue for better rights and more inclusive spaces in mental health settings, education and work for children and adults with DLD. Conclusions: DLD should be considered from a neurodiversity-informed perspective, and it is our hope that this will lead to neurodiversity-affirming practice that will afford young people with DLD better understanding from members of the public and the professionals who work with them. Further work is needed to better support children, young people, and adults with DLD to have a voice in the neurodiversity movement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalInternational journal of language & communication disorders
Early online date26 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jan 2024

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