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Monday, 12 May 2014

What is SLI? Our story

Specific Language Impairment - more common than Autism, as prevelant as Dyslexia and yet an unknown condition. This impairment impacts on expression and understanding, on literacy and on socialising. It's an invisible disability and the lack of awareness can be frustrating in itself. I have lost count of the amount of times I've been told that the condition is 'rare' or just another word for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). It's not, it's just unknown.

The charity I CAN summarises SLI as follows:

Specific Language Impairment or SLI is a type of speech, language and communication need (SLCN).
Children with SLI are usually as able and healthy as other children in all ways, with one exception; they have enormous difficulty talking and understanding language. This is their main area of difficulty.
Children with SLI are all very individual.
They may:

Have difficulty saying what they want to, even though they have ideas
Talk in sentences but be difficult to understand
Sound muddled; it can be difficult to follow what they are saying
Find it difficult to understand words and long instructions
Have difficulty remembering the words they want to say
Find it hard to join in and follow what is going on in the playground
SLI is a very broad category, with some children having mild problems that are short-lived. Others have severe and persistent difficulties with both understanding and talking.
These difficulties are not associated with other conditions, such as cerebral palsy, hearing impairment or autistic spectrum disorders. Children with SLI are often as clever as any other child of their age but they still have difficulties with speech and language, hence the term ‘specific’, as difficulties are specific to this area.

My daughter has a moderately severe expressive and receptive language disorder, known as Specific Language Impairment. She has frustration and social impacted behaviour relating to the fact she can't communicate to the same level as her peers. It took me years to get a diagnosis for her, the NHS froze all our local Speech and Language services and it took for me to get a private speech and language therapy diagnosis in order to get her needs recognised. As a parent who didn't know about it, it was very difficult to even understand what the problem was, let alone get help for it. A year later and I got a statement of special needs for her and a placement in a mainstream school with a language unit. What was clear was that without the extra help she would not have improved. At her current school she has learned to read and improved her understanding but her expressive language is still far behind that of another child of her age. It's an ongoing process to have her needs recognised and to raise awareness of this invisible disability.

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