Original Research

Systemic support for learners with developmental language disorders in Zimbabwe and South Africa

Nettie N. Ndou, Margaret F. Omidire
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 69, No 1 | a850 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v69i1.850 | © 2022 Nettie N. Ndou, Margaret F. Omidire | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 August 2021 | Published: 16 February 2022

About the author(s)

Nettie N. Ndou, Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Margaret F. Omidire, Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Teachers play a significant role as early identifiers of learners with developmental language disorder (DLD). They provide important information to other professionals for further specialist support of such learners. Professionals, such as educational psychologists, speech–language therapists (SLTs) and learning support therapists are involved in assisting learners with DLD; hence, inter-professional collaboration (IPC) amongst these professionals is of paramount importance in meeting the needs of learners.

Objectives: This study aimed to examine systemic support strategies available to learners with DLD.

Method: This was a multiple case study of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Purposive sampling was used to select participants. The study consisted of 56 participants: 5 teachers, 2 SLTs, a learning support therapist, an educational psychologist and 47 learners. A qualitative research approach was employed and data were collected using interviews, focus group discussions and classroom observations. The data were analysed thematically and categorised.

Results: Support strategies employed by teachers include remedial lessons and promoting a culture of reading for leisure to enhance learners’ vocabulary and narrative skills. The SLTs and the learning support therapist use speech–language programmes and assistive technologies. Limited IPC and the absence of SLTs in District Based Support Teams were some of the challenges identified. The results also indicate that SLTs receive referrals mostly from primary schools compared with secondary schools.

Conclusion: Raising awareness of DLD in schools and communities is deemed essential. Inter-professional collaboration is recommended to support learners with DLD as it increases the exchange of ideas and mutual acknowledgement of expertise amongst professionals.


developmental language disorder; inter-professional collaboration; inclusive education; systemic support; teaching and learning; medium of instruction; second language


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