Listening to professionals, children and families to improve services for DLD in schools

Gallagher, A. L., Murphy, C. A., Conway, P. F., & Perry, A. (2019). Engaging multiple stakeholders to improve speech and language therapy services in schools: an appreciative inquiry-based study. BMC health services research, 19(1), 226.

Aim of the paper:

Speech language therapists (SLTs) and teachers both play an important role in providing support for children with DLD in school, but they rarely work together. As a result, children with DLD may receiving less SLT service and support in school than needed. This paper aims to involve SLTs, teachers, parents and children with DLD in designing their ideal SLT service and support in school. This is done by having parents, SLTs and teachers take part in five group discussions, and having children with DLD take part in interviews.

What they found:

Four key ideas appeared during the group discussions and interview:

1) The ideal support:

The ideal support should be tailored to the child’s needs and interest. Tasks in school should be challenging yet possible to succeed. It is also important that the support targets difficulties other than language, such as social difficulties.

2) The ideal setting:

Parents, SLTs and teachers suggested that the ideal classroom setting should encourage listening and noticing. Children with DLD suggested that the ideal setting should be safe for taking risks, have consistent and clear rules, and allow children to have control in decisions. All the participants agreed that the ideal setting should be inclusive.

3) Priority outcomes:

Parents, SLTs and teachers said that a priority outcome is for children to connect with others. For example, children should have the opportunity to participate in class. Another priority outcome mentioned by children and parents is to understand social situations as well as other people. Other priority outcomes for children include managing their needs in school independently and learning to stand up for themselves.

4) The ideal service:

Parents, teachers and SLTs suggested that an ideal service should take the child’s needs as its most important consideration. An ideal service should also be caring for the child and should involve the child and his/her parents in the process. However, SLTs, parents and teachers differed in their view of the SLTs role. While parents and teachers want the SLTs to be working in the classroom, SLTs suggested that they should act as advisors.

What does this mean?

There are both similar and differing views between SLTs, teachers, parents and children with DLD in terms of their ideal services and supports in school. Similar views may provide a common ground for these groups to work together to improve support for children with DLD in schools.

The authors suggest that different groups might have different views because they have different experiences and a different focus. For example, children with DLD experience difficulties in school directly without knowing how supports for them are planned. Teachers and SLTs focus on planning support for children with DLD without experiencing their difficulties directly. Although these differences make it difficult for different groups to work together, addressing these differences may help improve SLT services and supports in school. So, parents are encouraged to express their views on SLT services and supports in school when suitable. Also, teachers and SLTs are encouraged to listen to children with DLD. Children should be able to have their say on the supports they are given in school.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it.

Please click here to find the full paper.