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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Debate over SLI terminology - what do we call it?

There is a debate going on over terminology with SLI. It is so unknown compared with other terms for language impairments or communication difficulties, and the question is, is this because the term Specific Language Impairment is not working as a label?

I think this might be less to do with terminology and more to do with awareness and media coverage. Dyslexia is a wide term referring to reading difficulties but is only widely known because of the focus on it during the 1980s, around the time my brother was diagnosed it was seen as a little known condition that affected many people. We were given a leaflet that cited such luminaries as Albert Einstein as being dyslexic and focussed on how it wasn't a measure of intelligence. Very little coverage is given to SLI in the same way. There are no famous people from history, or current celebrities shown as role models. I've done a quick google search to

Famous people with learning disabilities

On this list many are cited as having dyslexia or mild autism, but only one - Steve McQueen - seems to have an undiagnosed language learning disability which might be S.L.I. but since googling have found out he has had it diagnosed as dyslexia.

Is it time for SLI to be seen as part of a group of language disabilities and given more prominence that way? I wonder how many of the list also had S.L.I? Where does it go in adulthood, are all children affected with it destined for an invisible future?

In terms of awareness, either you reterm SLI as something which sounds like dyslexia/dyspraxia (giving the people affected by the condition another difficult term to remember!) or you start to push for more awareness of the thing itself.

There is very little awareness in schools, for example. Where are the leaflets and the checklists? The TV shows and characters? In addition is the diagnosis itself used as a coverall for a developmental delay with language. My daughter doesn't have dyslexia, which surprises me, but as soon as she was given enough support has learnt to read fairly quickly. Her issues come with learning language grammar and concepts in expressive spoken language. So how to we help the uninitiated to understand verbal and receptive language disorder?

I am contemplating a play or book about a character with SLI so if anyone is interested in encouraging me, please get in touch! Adults and children alike need more understanding so that our children don't end up like the dyslexics of old, stuck at the back of the class being told they are stupid.

Royal College of Speech and Language therapists - SLI information

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