Improving speech and language therapy services for preschool children with primary speech and language impairments

Professor Sue Roulstone from the Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit has been awarded a £1.2 million programme grant, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), to research the best interventions to help preschool children who experience difficulties with their speech.

Approximately six percent of all children in the UK will experience difficulties with their speech and language, in the apparent absence of any other problems with their health, development or intelligence. These children often experience difficulties with their education and with their social and emotional development as they get older. They are often isolated and at risk of being bullied and teased as they go through school. During their pre-school years they are usually referred for speech and language therapy support but we do not know what sort of help works best for which children and which families.

The aim of this research programme is to improve speech and language therapy (SLT) services for preschool children with primary speech and language impairments (PSLI).The research is being conducted by the Speeach and Language Therapy Research Unit based at Frenchay Hospital, which is a partnership between UWE and North Bristol NHS Trust. Researchers will identify the critical aspects of intervention that can be varied to support children with different needs, and families in a range of differing circumstances. In the long run the programme aims to provide guidlines for SLT services to ensure that interventions for primary school children are targeted to suit their needs.

Recent government initiatives emphasise the role of communication in a child’s health and well-being promoting early identification and intervention to reduce the long term impact on a child’s social, education and employment prospects. Speaking about the aims of the proramme Professor Sue Roulstone said: "By the end of this three-year research programme, we hope to be able to describe, in detail, the various ways therapists can provide support to children and their families in the UK. We will also list the methods that are supported by research evidence and which ones are perceived to be the most helpful by families".

For more information visit the Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit website

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