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Entry and exit criteria for child and young people with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)


Entry and Exit Criteria for

  • The Early Years Specialist Team for Speech and Language  
  • The Specialist Speech and Language Support Centre at Thornbury Primary School
  • The Specialist Speech and Language Support Centre at Tor Bridge High School

This page defines what is meant by the term Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and aims to describe the children who should be considered for placements with the Early Years Specialist Team for Speech and Language (EY Team), and in the Specialist Speech and Language Support Centres (LSCs) in Plymouth.


What needs does the child have?

  • DLD is defined in terms of functional impairment of language and communication together with poor prognosis without specialist intervention, i.e. difficulties which persist throughout childhood and adolescence and into adulthood.
  • Children should be displaying clear indicators of DLD (these are likely to include problems with understanding spoken language and/or forming sentences, using grammar, learning and using vocabulary) and this term should be used where appropriate.
  • For children who are referred to the EY Team, while they must be displaying strong indicators of DLD, the diagnostic term is not recommended by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists for use with children under 5 years old. This is due to the neuroplasticity of a child's brain before the age of 5, the potential for their communication needs to resolve, and hence them not experiencing the enduring language needs which define DLD.
  • Children who have severe Speech Sound Disorders (SSD) are also often appropriate for placements within Specialist LSCs. SSDs have a functional impact on restricting children's abilities to demonstrate their knowledge and learning and integrate socially. Research indicates that these children also have a poor prognosis without specialist intervention.
  • SSDs can co-occur with DLD.
  • The child's speech, language and communication needs should be described by professionals in terms of the impact which their needs have on their functional skills. The information required will include: qualitative descriptions of the child's play, attention, listening, memory, processing of language and social interaction skills along with their academic abilities and progress in response to interventions. Formal scores from standardised speech and language assessments should be provided when appropriate.
  • An up-to-date report from a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) needs to be submitted which comprehensively outlines the child's communication profile, confirms a diagnosis of DLD (in the cases of children of 5 years old and above) and/or SSD and comments on their suitability for EY Team or LSC placement. The report submitted to the Single Multi-Agency Panel (SMAP) should not be more than 6 months old.
  • The children need to be able to engage appropriately with intensive support and teaching alongside elements of mainstream inclusion, e.g. assemblies, playtimes, P.E. lessons and register times.
  • For entry at Key Stage 2 and above the children must have been issued with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or be in the process of having an EHCP agreed.


The EY Team

If a pre-school child presents with indicators of DLD and consideration is given to placing them with the EY Team for support, the Community SLT must contact a member of the Specialist DLD Team for a case discussion.

A joint visit to the child will then be arranged with both SLTs and if appropriate, a completed referral form for them must be sent to the EY Team Specialist Teacher.

The child will then be offered a further visit with a Specialist Teacher and a DLD SLT, and if they are considered to be suitable, the child will either be offered a place with the EY Team or on the waiting until a place becomes available.

The child will remain in their mainstream pre-school settings where intervention from the EY Team will take place.


Specialist LSCs

To apply for a place in one of the LSC settings, an up-to-date curriculum report and/or cover letter from the child's setting needs to be submitted to the correct SMAP where the child's case will be discussed. This report should include:

  • the information which evidences the child's strengths and needs across all areas
  • information about any current strategies in place to support the child's speech, language and communication
  • details of the impact of their speech, language and communication needs on their functional skills and any barriers to learning
  • details of the indicators of DLD the child is presenting with (these are likely to include problems with understanding spoken language and/or forming sentences, using grammar, learning and using vocabulary) and this term should be used where appropriate
  • evidence that the child's speech/language/communication impairment is their PRIMARY area of need
  • evidence that the child's speech/language and communication needs require support which is considered to be above and beyond that which can be provided by their local mainstream school
  • evidence that the child requires access to intensive speech, language and communication support and teaching, alongside elements of mainstream inclusion (e.g. assemblies, playtimes, P.E. lessons and register times) to access the curriculum, learn and make progress
  • signed parental consent for the referral to be made along with the views of parents/carers
  • a report from an EY Team Specialist Teacher
  • a copy of the child's current IEP
  • a copy of the child's latest TAM or other relevant multi-agency meeting minutes

If SMAP decides that a child should be given an LSC placement, and providing there is space available, a place for the child will be offered to parents/carers by the Local Authority.


Children may transition out of an LSC at any stage if

  • Their speech, language and communication difficulties have sufficiently progressed to enable them to access learning in a local mainstream school.
  • The development of the child's learning is limited to a level where they are unable to progress further within the National Curriculum in an LSC or a mainstream environment. Sometimes it may be appropriate for the Local Authority to consider a Special School placement for the child.
  • Speech, language and communication difficulties are no longer considered to be the child's primary areas of need, (for example if social, emotional and mental health problems become of greater concern); thus further progress from the intensive support within the LSC is inhibited.
  • They reach the ceiling ages for each setting.

It is important to note that a child who is attending an LSC will NOT automatically be allocated a place at the next LSC at points of transition. Hence a child who is supported by the EY Team will need to re-apply, through the SMAP process, for a place in Thornbury LSC for Key Stage 1.

All Foundation Stage placements at Thornbury LSC are given on a two-term assessment basis where the child remains dual registered with their mainstream primary school until Easter. At this point, a Team Around Me will be held to determine if the child is appropriately placed at Thornbury, in which case the dual registration will cease.

If by the end of Key Stage 1 the child continues to require an LSC placement, Thornbury will then apply for an EHCP and refer the child again to SMAP to request a placement in Year 3.

A final application will be made for the child to SMAP if a place is required for the LSC at Tor Bridge High School.

When a child or young person leaves an LSC and transitions to a mainstream setting, it is recommended that, due to the long-term nature of DLD, a referral is made to the Communication Interaction Team (CIT) to ensure that any language and communication needs continue to be followed up and understood by schools at later stages during their education. It may also be necessary to contact the Children's Speech and Language Service for further advice and information.



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