Parent-implemented language intervention delivered by therapy assistants for two-year-olds at risk of language difficulties: A case series
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The aims of this small-scale study were to explore the feasibility and outcomes of a parent-implemented intervention for two-year-olds at risk of language difficulties, and to explore the implications for the public health model of speech and language therapy (SLT). This adds to limited research into targeted SLT public health interventions. It is the first study to investigate early language intervention delivered by trained therapy assistants (TAs) rather than clinicians. Nine children aged between 26 and 31 months took part. Seven (78%) completed the six-session intervention. The outcome measure was the Words subscale of the Language Use Inventory. The gross motor subscale of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire was used as a control measure. Children’s skills were assessed twice before intervention and once afterwards. At baseline, six participants had expressive language delay and no wider speech, language and communication needs (SLCNs). Five of this subgroup showed language use skills within the typical range following intervention. At baseline, three participants had expressive language delay and previously undetected receptive language and/or social interaction difficulties. None of this sub-group showed improved age-adjusted language use skills following intervention. All nine participants had gross motor skills in the typical range at each time point. These exploratory findings suggest this targeted intervention is feasible. This study presents no evidence of short-term impact of this intervention for two-year-olds with expressive language delay and wider SLCNs. These findings suggest this targeted language intervention for two-year-olds may be associated with accelerated language development for some two-year-olds at risk of language difficulties because of expressive language delay; and may help identify two-year-olds with previously undetected wider SLCNs, and therefore facilitate early access to specialist support. We highlight limitations in the study size, design and outcome measures, and identify how these preliminary findings can inform future research.