How do you communicate when you have language learning difficulties?

Trinity researchers are highlighting a unique research project to mark International Developmental Language Disorder Awareness Day (16th October 2020).  The ‘Picturing Communication Project’ aims to learn more about what people with communication difficulties think about how they communicate and what their first-hand experiences are.

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is a condition which affects on average 2 children in every classroom. More common than autism but typically unheard of, DLD can have major impacts on children’s ability to use and understand language. Without the right speech and language therapy supports, children can have lifelong negative outcomes in academic achievement, mental health, and employment.

International DLD Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of this hidden condition so that children can access the speech and language therapy they need to achieve their potential.

‘The Picturing Communication’ project is led by Professor Martine Smith and it uses an increasingly popular research technique called ‘Photovoice’. As part of the project, participants take photos that represent communication to them and then take part in an interview where they explain why those photos are meaningful to them and why they represent communication. This multi-modal technique works well with people who sometimes find it difficult to participate in “traditional” interviews, so this project is accessible to people of all communication abilities from all settings.

Professor Martine Smith, Principal Investigator of the study said:

Helping to support people’s communication needs requires that we first understand what communication means to them and how they experience communication in their day to day lives. This project ( is part of a larger life-story project that aims to capture the often-forgotten life stories of people with communication impairments. The project has received funding from the Provost PhD Project Award scheme (a prestigious award scheme that supports doctoral research across a variety of disciplines, and aims to give voice to those whose communication can be difficult to understand.

Professor Smith believes this research will be important in enhancing  our understanding of communication disability and how we might tailor interventions both individual and societal to best support individuals whose access to communication is difficult. Anyone interested in participating in either the Picturing Communication  or the My Day, My Life and Me project is asked to contact the research team (details below).


The Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies at Trinity College is the longest established centre for the education of speech and language therapists in Ireland. Two primary research areas within the department are communication in typical and atypical contexts, with emphasis on the social experience of communication difficulties and dysphagia (swallowing disorders).

A group of Trinity undergraduate Speech and Language Therapy students have launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of DLD and the need for speech and language therapy supports for children – Click here for more information:

If you would like more information on the Photovoice project, please contact the Research Team using the details below:

Project Email Address:

Project Twitter Account: @PicturingComm

Primary Investigator: Professor Martine Smith (

Research Assistant: Dr Órla Gilheaney (