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.

2 Responses

  1. I qualified as a teacher in 2003 and then fell pregnant. I often wondered if I would get back into teaching but we had a second child with a language delay. I was able to recognise that there was something not quite right with our son because of my training. Unfortunately, I fought an uphill battle for years getting someone to listen to me about my son and the delays he had in speech and language. He attended a Language Development Centre for Kindy, Pre-primary and year 1. He is now nearly 12 and he still struggles with spelling and making sense of things. He has trouble working out spelling rules and reading social cues. I stumbled across this website today and have found it very helpful both as a parent and a teacher. I now am a relief teacher at the very school he attended for those three years because I believe that these children and parents need someone who understands both sides of the story. I was so pleased to see that someone (Natalie) has looked into the cost of children with a developmental language disorder. It isn’t just the financial, there is an emotional cost too. I would be very interested to hear if there is any research on assistance for children entering high school, as we know, these students are not dumb, they just struggle to make sense of some things. I read this article in the hope of finding some information on employment issues and any assistance offered, however I did not find an answer in the article. Is there any help available for children entering high school or do they fall by the wayside?

  2. My son is 13 and falling behind in high school and failing many tests. It is saddening to see that there is limited support for DLD. We can’t afford regular speech pathology sessions and it is so hard to schedule these lessons outside of school when you are struggling with school work . I wish there was more intensive in class support and more government support available for kids with DLD so that they can access the support they desperately need

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