Understanding the economic impacts of Developmental Language Disorder

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Language development is an important milestone in every child’s life and challenges in this area have significant implications for academic and employment outcomes.

Despite children with Developmental Language Disorder representing 7% of the population, little is known about the healthcare costs and impact to the economy associated with these difficulties. Many children with Developmental Language Disorder see speech language pathologists, paediatricians, general practitioners, psychologists, and other health professionals for assessment, diagnoses and treatment. They may also access early intervention and community health services in addition to the usual educational services.

The costs related to Developmental Language Disorders are likely to be substantial and a number of recent research articles have raised the question, how much does it cost? Initial findings indicate:

  • Costs are significantly higher for children with Developmental Language Disorder.
  • Language difficulties are associated with $1.2M to $12.1M in additional health care. Spending depends on the age of the child.
  • Government funding costs up to $602 more for children with Developmental Language Disorder biannually than their typically developing peers.
  • These costs continue throughout childhood into adolescence.
  • Only half of families of children with Developmental Language Disorder access speech language pathology services by the age of 9.

It is important to note this does include costs incurred for early intervention services, the education sector or out-of- pocket expenses for families. The cost of Developmental Language Disorder to the Australian economy is likely to be substantially higher with further research needed in this area. Whilst the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) aims to support people with disability to build skills and capability, it does not recognise the significant impact of Developmental Language Disorder on children and young people. Families are being denied equal access to government funding which in turn puts them under further financial strain.

SALDA will continue to educate and advocate community leaders on the need to increase funding to ensure all children receive the support they need to thrive.

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