Projects per year
Methods: Child Talk adopted a mixed-methods design. Quantitative methods included surveys and investigated the prevalence and patterns of intervention usage; qualitative data collection methods included focus groups, interviews and reflection to investigate participants’ perspectives and understandings of interventions. Data analysis methods included descriptive and inferential statistics, thematic and content analysis and framework analysis. Participants were recruited nationally through six NHS sites, professional bodies, parent groups and advertising. Participants included SLTs (n = 677), parents (n = 84), preschool children (n = 24), early years practitioners (n = 31) and ‘underserved’ communities (n = 52).
Key findings: Speech and language therapy interventions were characterised in terms of nine themes, viewed as comprehensive and inclusive by practitioners. Relevant assessments, interventions and outcome domains were identified for the nine themes. Areas of tacit knowledge and underspecified processes contributed to variability in the detail of the framework. Systematic reviews identified 58 relevant and robust studies (from 55,271 papers retrieved from the initial literature search). The number of studies relevant to each theme varied from 1 to 33. Observational data on preschool children’s perspectives on speech and language therapy interventions revealed the dynamic nature of their interaction with different activities and people within therapy sessions. Parents’ experiences of speech and language therapy were generally positive although some reported that the rationale for therapy was not always clear. Parental perspectives in underserved communities suggested that, although parents were confident about how to support children’s language development, they were less informed about the nature of language impairments and the function of speech and language therapy. The availability of information regarding resources directed towards speech and language therapy services was poor. In particular, services lacked both a culture of collecting outcome data routinely and measures of professional input and costs associated with their activities.
Conclusion: A descriptive framework of SLT practice has been developed to support the discussions between therapists and families when making decisions regarding the selection of interventions and outcome measures. Further research is needed to address gaps in the intervention framework and evaluate its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in improving outcomes for preschool children with primary speech and language impairments.