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Therapy Box is leading a collaborative project to create a fun story-telling app that helps Speech and Language Therapists identify children with a developmental language disorder. We are harnessing the power of technology to improve outcomes for children across the country.


After a monumental effort from everyone, we have now gathered enough samples to fill our stratified buckets. That means we have children representing all the different age brackets and across different socio-economic groups! 

This helps us understand:

* more about how children retell stories - the words, grammar and story grammar they use

* more about how these narrative skills change over time
* how wonderfully clever and creative children can be....and how good their pirate voices are!

We also listened to over 400 parents who filled in the survey in the app and told us that 95% of parents found the app easy to use and 91% of children enjoyed it!

Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project, as we move towards our next phase to clinically evaluate the tool.



To help speech and language therapists evaluate the language of children who may have Developmental Language Disorders we created The Language Explorer. The Language Explorer is a free fun story-retelling app that aims to learn about children’s language and communication abilities. It aims to achieve this by collecting data on how children between the ages of 4 and 8 perform on its three assessments: story retell, comprehension and repetition.


The Language Explorer’s story is about a boy and his dog’s quest for treasure, which has universal appeal! It has been designed with children to ensure it is engaging, and to make sure the language used is suitable for its audience. After creating your profile, you will first listen to this story. You will then be asked to retell the story in your own words, complete a quiz and play a repeating game. Once you’ve completed all three challenges, you have the option to listen back to your story and play a game where you steer your ship to collect as many treasure coins as possible. Make sure to avoid those dangerous rocks!



Developmental language disorder (DLD) is a condition where children have problems understanding and/or using spoken language. There is no obvious reason for these difficulties; for example, there is no hearing problem or physical disability that explains them. A combination of the fact that DLD has no known cause and symptoms which often are difficult to identify has led to many misconceptions surrounding the disorder. 


Children with DLD often go unrecognised and without appropriate support can go on to have significant difficulties with education and social relationships. This in turn has long term consequences, with DLD being associated with future unemployment, mental and behavioural issues, and poor economic outcomes. However, access to specialist support and interventions at the right time can make a big difference, and reduce the chances of these negative consequences. This fact has spurred on the Language Explorer team, to provide clinicians with the tools to help identify DLD as early in a child’s development as possible!



Funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s Invention for Innovation Programme, specialist technology company Therapy Box is leading a collaborative project to answer a key question - can an app help detect whether a child has a potential developmental language disorder (DLD)? 2 out of 30 children have DLD so it is important that Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) have the necessary tools to quickly and reliably do their assessments. The Language Explorer project seeks to achieve this by digitalising existing practices used by SLTs, and by using new technologies to improve the process of identifying DLD. 


The innovative collaboration between Therapy Box, the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit, Newcastle University and three NHS sites in Hackney, Newcastle and Bristol, started in November 2019 and will take place across two years. At the start of the project, the team will be seeking 600 children to record their stories, to help train the app to recognise the children having trouble with their language. In the second year of the project, the app will be put through its paces by speech and language therapists and families coming to clinics for assessment. Finally, once all of these stages have been successfully completed, the app will be ready for commercial launch.


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On average DLD affects 2 children in your classroom. Therefore, we would love for you to help us improve the outcomes for your students. Check out the useful materials below, on how you can help us realise our goal:


Help us on our mission to identify DLD as early as possible, to help children reach their potential. Find out below how you can join our mission:



The Language Explorer team brings together two completely different worlds: technology specialists and speech and language experts. By collaborating, we aim to learn more about child language development and create a robust tool which can be used in clinics across the country by speech and language therapists and the children they work with.

Rebecca Bright

Therapy Box

Dr. Yvonne Wren


Dr. Cristina McKean

Newcastle University

Swapnil Gadgil

Therapy Box

Gerry Bates

Sirona Care & Health

Dr. Anil Alexander
Oxford Wave Research

Annabelle Burns
Hackney Learning Trust

Lucy Paterson

Newcastle Hospital 






Sun Studio 3, 30 Warple Way London W3 0RX


©2020 by The Language Explorer. 
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR funds, supports and delivers high-quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care. Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research. Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future. Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services. Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy. The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.
Award code: NIHR200889