Education and employment outcomes of young adults with a history of developmental language disorder

Gina Conti-Ramsden, Kevin Durkin, Umar Toseeb, Nicola Botting, Andrew Pickles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Developmental language disorder (DLD) presents a considerable barrier for young adults to engage in further education and training. Early studies with young adults with DLD revealed poor educational achievement and lack of opportunities to progress in education. More recent studies have provided more positive findings. Relatively sparse data exist, however, on current cohorts and the factors that predict outcomes.

AIMS: To examine educational and employment outcomes in young adulthood in a sample of people with histories of DLD compared with an age-matched peer group without DLD. We ask: How do educational pathways and early jobs compare between those with and without DLD? Are young adults with DLD receiving similar levels of income as their peers? To what extent are language and literacy abilities associated with outcomes?

METHODS & PROCEDURES: Participants included 84 individuals with DLD (67% males) and 88 age-matched peers without DLD (56% males). Participants were on average 24 years of age. They completed a battery of psycholinguistic, literacy and nonverbal skills assessments. Data were also collected on educational qualifications, current educational status, extent of educational support received, employment status, history and support, as well as current income.

OUTCOMES & RESULTS: Those with DLD obtained lower academic and vocational qualifications. Higher educational/vocational qualifications were associated with better language, better reading and higher performance IQ (PIQ). There were few differences between the two groups in terms of engagement with education, but the mean age at leaving education was significantly earlier in the participants with DLD. Substantially more participants with DLD reported receiving support or dispensation from their educational institution. There was no significant difference between groups in the proportion of young people currently employed, though a higher proportion of the age-matched peers was in work full time. Participants with DLD were much more likely to be in non-professional occupations. However, when examining pay in relation to types of occupation, the groups' incomes were broadly comparable.

CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: At the group level, young people with a history of DLD more commonly have less skilled employment and more rarely achieve professional roles. At the individual level there is considerable variation with smaller but not trivial proportions of young adults with a history of DLD showing good educational and employment outcomes. There are positive aspects to early adult outcomes for some young people with a history of DLD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-255
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of language & communication disorders
Issue number2
Early online date15 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

©2017 The Authors


  • developmental language disorder
  • education
  • employment
  • young adulthood

Cite this