Success in 1:1 therapy for older children with developmental language disorder

Older children with developmental language disorders are underepresented in research studies and clinical caseloads, and are sometimes regarded as difficult to make therapeutic progress with. This study was performed with a group of SLPs treating 72 students ages 9–17 with developmental language disorders. The researchers had the SLPs create individualized objectives for their clients ("business as usual"), so that the scientists could study not just how one therapy method works, but how language therapy works in general for these children. The SLPs identified both control and target measures that could be compared after therapy (e.g. treated and untreated idioms, if that was the child's objective... or treated and untreated irregular past-tense verbs). In total, the students worked on 172 individualized objectives, most of them receptive or expressive language skills. The average number of hours of therapy provided was just over four hours total, per target, across one school term.
Results indicate that “the 1:1 intervention provided by the SLTs* (SLPs) was effective across a range of areas”… and “…even a relatively small amount of direct therapy can have a significant effect, especially where the intervention and outcome measures were closely related.” (Note that they didn’t compare 1:1 therapy to group therapy in this study, though the children did also receive group therapy.) Overall, this provides evidence for the effectiveness of one-on-one therapy for children with language impairment in elementary through high school years. This serves a nice reminder that what we’re doing is working, and that we need to advocate to be able to keep working on language in these kids. 

Ebbels, S.H., Wright, L., Brockbank, S., Godfrey, C., Harris, C., Leniston, H., ...  Marić, N. (2016). Effectiveness of 1:1 speech and language therapy for older children with (developmental) language disorder. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1111/1460-6984.12297.
*Called “speech and language therapists” in the UK and other English-speaking countries. Called “speech­–language pathologists” in the US.

NOTE: In the appendices, the authors list the therapy targets and methods used by the SLPs in this study. It is an interesting resource to browse, and may introduce you to some therapy techniques you aren’t currently using or familiar with.