More than 7% of children and young people find it hard to use or understand language and communicate in the same way or as easily as others. These differences start off when children are developing language but can continue through the teenage years and into adulthood.
Language and communication differences can be associated with lots of types of neurodivergence.
Communication and language difficulties affect everyone differently. Here are some things teenagers might find tricky if they have difficulties with speech, language and communication.
- Understanding what people say and following instructions
- Knowing what long or complicated words mean
- Remembering what people have said
- Remembering the right words to use
- Saying words clearly
- Putting thoughts and ideas into words
- Explaining something that happened to someone who was not there
- Knowing when someone is being sarcastic or joking
- Taking things literally
This can make some things more challenging.
Difficulties with language often makes reading and writing harder as well as talking. It can be hard to keep track of what the teacher is saying in lessons. It can be tricky to understand complicated new words. It may be hard to concentrate. It may feel stressful.
Lots of teenagers feel embarrassed about putting their hand up to ask a question. Some people do not know how to ask for help. Some people are afraid they will be told off for not paying attention.
What can help?
- Tell someone you trust. Work out with them what help you need.
- Ask about extra time and support for exams.
It can be hard for teenagers to make and keep friends for lots of reasons. It may be tough to find people with similar interests or to find friends they can be themselves with. Keeping up with jokes and banter can be tricky.
Lots of different language and communication skills are needed for joining in with conversations. People may end up feeling left out or miss the point and try to cover it up.
On-line communication can be just as challenging.
What can help?
- Tell someone at school or at home if you feel lonely or are having problems with other students in school.
- Look for friends who you can be yourself with. Having one or two genuine friends is better than trying to be popular by putting on an act or getting into trouble.
- Remember that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Ask an adult you trust to help you talk things through if you have a disagreement with a friend rather than fall out over it.
Talking about emotions can be hard for teenagers and especially hard for those who find language and communication tricky.
Some teenagers will find it hard to work out how they are feeling or how others are feeling.
They may find it hard to use the right words to describe feelings. If someone asks how they are, sometimes it is easier just to say ‘fine’.
Having difficulties talking or understanding can affect a teenager’s confidence and cause strong feelings. They may feel angry, embarrassed, frustrated, stressed, or alone.
Some neurodivergent young people find it hard to keep control of their emotions. This is especially hard if talking about them is tricky.
- Find someone you trust and together try to work out what will support you.
- It may be easier to use something visual as you talk about your feelings. For example, using a scale or pictures to show different feelings.
- Drawing stick figure cartoons can help if you are trying to describe a social problem.
You might want to look at:
This website is made by Ellen, who has DLD, and has lots of useful advice and information from her point of view. https://sites.google.com/view/thisisdld/home