Developmental Language Disorder


What happens when you are angry but cannot find the words to express yourself? Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD; formerly called Language Impairment) have trouble communicating. This affects the way they feel about themselves and their social relations. In two longitudinal research projects we aim to give an overview of the emotional and social development of children with DLD. With this knowledge we will develop an instrument for professionals to measure specific areas of the social and emotional functioning of children with DLD. The projects are in close collaboration with the NSDSK and Kentalis Academy.    

See our list of publications on DLD.

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Children with DLD aged 1-5  
Children with DLD aged 9-15
Interview: Internship at Focus on Emotions lab 
News Archive DLD


Social-emotional functioning in children with DLD aged 1-5  

Children learn to understand and regulate their emotions through contact with their parents and peers. In the first years of life language becomes increasingly important in this interaction. When children have a severe language problem their emotional and social growth is affected from an early age on. In close collaboration with the NSDSK we are doing research on the first years of life of children with SLI. We try to understand which areas of the development are affected by the communicational problems and how they relate to each other. Important subjects are the understanding of own and others emotions, empathic behaviour and Theory of Mind.  

Researchers involved: Rosanne van der Zee, Karin Wiefferink and Carolien Rieffe    


Social-emotional functioning in children with DLD aged 9-15  

Children in early adolescence spend most of their social time chatting with their peers. For children with SLI the communicative difficulties increase during late childhood. How does this affect the way they feel about themselves? Do they manage to have good quality friendships, or are they being bullied? Thanks to funding of Nuts Ohra we are trying to answer these questions. The research is conducted in close collaboration with Kentalis Academy and the NSDSK.  

Researchers involved: Neeltje van den Bedem, Petra van Alphen and Carolien Rieffe


Elina HarjunenInterview with Elina

What is your position in the FOE-team?
I am a psychology master student from the University of Helsinki and came here to do a research internship. I am assisting Neeltje with her project on SLI children’s social-emotional development. I will get to know the literature and assist with Neeltje’s upcoming research paper.

Why did you choose to come to work with FOE team?
I have always been interested in developmental psychology. I became more interested in language development while I was assisting in a research project regarding music and children’s language development. Inspired by the subject, I applied and was accepted for a 5-months internship at the Speech and Voice Clinic  in Helsinki for Autumn 2016. Which increased my enthusiasm even more! I was informed that my internship workplace treats children with SLI. So that’s why SLI immediately caught my eye when I was browsing the FOE team’s website. 

What will you get from the internship?
I hope to get a broad theoretical knowledge of the literature regarding SLI children’s social-emotional development. This will be a huge advantage for me as a psychologist intern at the Speech and Voice Clinic. Without the work here my knowledge about the subject would be limited to only one lecture that I had during my studies in Finland. Besides, I am now also following closely the process of writing an article. I am quite sure I will continue my studies after graduation. Whether that is to become a PhD or specialized psychologist, I don’t know yet. But I am sure that this internship gives me a very good starting point for the future to publish my own articles. And that is why I am really grateful to be here.

How does it feel to live in Leiden?
Life in the Netherlands is surprisingly similar to how it is in Finland. I guess the Finnish mentality fits well with the Dutch way of life! What I like in Leiden, is how the history is present all over, and how unique atmosphere the city has. Also, people have been really nice and welcoming and they don’t mind at all chatting in English. But most of all, I love cycling! Even though I also ride a bike at home, cycling is much more practical and so much easier here. That’s something we should learn from. And the rain... well I’ve decided that it’s just a question of attitude! :)


News Archive DLD

Emotional competence as mediator in longitudinal study on children with and without Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) 20 August 2020
Emotion awareness decreases internalizing symptoms in children with Developmental Language Disorder 30 March 2020    
Neeltje succesfully defended her PhD thesis 05 March 2020    
Emotions and psychosocial development in children with Developmental Language Disorder  03 March 2020     
Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day 18 October 2019
Bachelor project on children with Developmental Language Disorder 28 February 2019
Malaptative emotion regulation strategies linked to depression in children with a Developmental Language Disorder: Paper in press 02 October 2018
Bullying in (pre-) adolescents with language disorders  14 July 2018
Data collection completed 27 February 2017
Meeting at UCL on Language Impairment 03 November 2016
Emotion understanding at the ISSBD in Vilnius 15 July 2016