Efficacy of the treatment of developmental language disorder: A systematic review

Sara Rinaldi, Maria Cristina Caselli, Valentina Cofelice, Simonetta D’Amico, Anna Giulia De Cagno, Giuseppina Della Corte, Maria Valeria Di Martino, Brigida Di Costanzo, Maria Chiara Levorato, Roberta Penge, Tiziana Rossetto, Alessandra Sansavini, Simona Vecchi, Pierluigi Zoccolotti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background. Language disorder is the most frequent developmental disorder in childhood and it has a significant negative impact on children’s development. The goal of the present review was to systematically analyze the effectiveness of interventions in children with developmental language disorder (DLD) from an evidence-based perspective. Methods. We considered systematic reviews, meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), control group cohort studies on any type of intervention aimed at improving children’s skills in the phono-articulatory, phonological, semantic-lexical, and morpho-syntactic fields in preschool and primary school children (up to eight years of age) that were diagnosed with DLD.We identified 27 full-length studies, 26 RCT and one review. Results. Early intensive intervention in three- and four-year-old children has a positive effect on phonological expressive and receptive skills and acquisitions are maintained in the medium term. Less evidence is available on the treatment of expressive vocabulary (and no evidence on receptive vocabulary). Intervention on morphological and syntactic skills has effective results on expressive (but not receptive) skills; however, a number of inconsistent results have also been reported. Only one study reports a positive effect of treatment on inferential narrative skills. Limited evidence is also available on the treatment of meta-phonological skills. More studies investigated the effectiveness of interventions on general language skills, which now appears as a promising area of investigation, even though results are not all consistent. Conclusions. The effectiveness of interventions over expressive and receptive phonological skills, morpho-syntactic skills, as well as inferential skills in narrative context underscores the importance that these trainings be implemented in children with DLD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number407
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Developmental language disorder
  • Evidence-based
  • Intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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