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ELCISS aims to enhance language and communication in secondary school children with primary language and communication impairment through narrative/storytelling and vocabulary enrichment.

Background

Enhancing language and communication in secondary school children with specific language impairment through two intervention programmes: narrative and vocabulary enrichment

BACKGROUND OF AND RATIONALE FOR THE PROJECT

This study explores the prevalence, nature and type of language and communication impairment in secondary school students in two outer London boroughs, and investigates the effectiveness of two speech and language therapy (SALT) interventions in improving their language and communication skills. It also explores the effectiveness of different levels of training support given to teaching staff.

This is a significantly under-researched and under-serviced client population. It explores the effectiveness of each therapy and their combination and examines which specific aspects of language are improved by each intervention. The two interventions are pedagogically sound as they meet the current guidelines of the secondary school strategy for building on progress made in primary schools, and focus on two key skills targeted in the National Curriculum: storytelling and vocabulary enrichment.

The delivery of the intervention takes into account the limitations of the service provision by using a collaboration of existing school staff and speech and language therapists (SLTs). This type of service delivery is a realistic and recommended means of intervention and sets the scene for significant changes in professional practice and service delivery in the boroughs and allows for capacity building in SALT and education.

Research into language development and disorders has routinely focused on early preschool and primary development. However it is accepted that language continues to develop in complexity and abstractness throughout adolescence (Nippold, 2007). Clinical research on adolescent language impairments is also lacking. This reflects the shortage of SALT with this group, and a recent government review acknowledged this as an unmet need and recommended the development of support services in secondary schools (Law et al., 2000).

Paediatric SALT services focus routinely on the pre-and primary school-age child. The two participating London Boroughs have a limited secondary school SALT service. However, a significant number of secondary school students have language and communication impairments, which impede access to the NC, and have a long-term influence on language and communication in adolescence and adulthood. There is growing evidence of the pervasiveness of language impairment and the persistent academic vulnerability that it engenders (Clegg et al., 2005; Knox, 2002; Snow & Powell, 2004; Snowling et al., 2000; Snowling et al., 2001; Snowling et al., 2006).

The paucity of clinical research results in minimal information regarding the prevalence or type of language impairment in adolescence. The long term nature of language impairments and the rigorous demands of secondary school justify increasing SALT in this context. However, limited resources and lack of evidence for the effectiveness of therapy with this group, makes this difficult.

Although some evidence has emerged that intervention with secondary school children is effective, there is a growing need to identify evidence-based SALT in education. This research addresses this gap in service provision and extends a pilot study on the effectiveness of narrative and vocabulary training on the language of secondary school children (Joffe, 2006).