The DLS is a system of language interventions intended for individuals who have difficulties in developing language skills. It is a step by step program aimed to improve a child’s understanding and use of language.


The approach is based on the idea of ‘information carrying words’.  An information carrying word is any word in a sentence that must be understood in order to follow an instruction. An example is saying to a child ‘take the teddy’ with the person holding only a teddy out. The child does not have to understand a single word in this sentence because the person has shown them what they want. There are no information carrying words. However, if there was a teddy and a book and the person says ‘take the teddy’ the child needs to differentiate between the teddy and the book, and therefore the sentence has one information carrying word.

Instructions can have a varying amount of information carrying words depending on the cues provided such as visual clues, objects, gestures etc. By using the DLS, children are taught to understand and use sentences with increasing numbers of information carrying words.

Who can you use it with?

The programme was originally designed for children with severe learning disabilities; however it can be used with all children and young people where building vocabulary and teaching the understanding and use of simple sentences and basic grammar are key goals. The approach is often adapted with adult friendly materials to be used with adults with learning disabilities.


Speech and Language Therapists use the DLS to assess an individual’s level of language ability and will plan activities to improve language ability depending on the outcome of the assessment. This assessment will demonstrate how many information carrying words the individual child can understand and express, whether this is average for their age and if intervention is necessary to improve their understanding or use of sentences.

There is an assessment picture book for individuals who are at this level of symbolic understanding but there are also objects to assess understanding at object level.

A request at one information carrying word (ICW) is described as being at the single word comprehension level, if it contains two ICWs the child would be at two word comprehension level and so on.

Therapy Resources

Therapy is split into 3 stages:

  1. Early Vocabulary Stage to teach children to understand and extend their vocabulary use.
  2. Simple Sentence Stage to teach children to understand and use sentences containing two to four information carrying words
  3. Grammar and complex sentence stage to teach children to use sentences of increasing complexity and difference concepts.

Comprehension skills are developed using games and activities where the child is only successful if they follow the speaker’s instruction.

Example of an activity

A session for a child who is just beginning to understand requests from the Simple Sentence Stage might take the form of a doll’s tea party. The Speech and Language Therapist will uses different types of request in order to improve the child’s level of understanding.

Requests addressed to child at two word comprehension level

–       ‘Give me dolly’s cup’,

–       ‘Give me teddy’s plate

Examples of three word comprehension level

–       ‘Put the biscuits on the table

–       ‘Give teddy the big cup’

Examples of four word comprehension level

–       ‘Make dolly sit under the table

–       ‘Give teddy the small blue plate

There has to be ‘choice’ to be made to ensure a word is an information carrying word in the sentence.

The activity should provide a natural context for the utterances, as well as one in which the Speech and Language Therapist can use sentence structures frequently, but the child is relatively successful but also pushed to their limit of language ability.

The activity should be something the child will enjoy but that will elicit the language and sentence structures to be developed.

Do you need a Derbyshire Language trained therapist in your school?

We can place a therapist trained in The Derbyshire Language Scheme  in your school, to set up whole class approaches, small group and 1;1 Word Aware work.

We can also train Teachers and Teaching Assistants in using The Derbyshire Language Scheme.

Further information

Click here for more information on this scheme, or to speak to a therapist if you are concerned about your child’s language development.

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