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Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and improvements in children with DLD

Allen, J. and Marshall, C.R. (2011), Parent–Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) in school‐aged children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 46, 397-410. Aim of the paper: This study looks at how therapy focused on supporting parent-child interactions may help children with DLD’s communication abilities. The researchers compared a group of children (at 8-10 years) with DLD who were provided immediate therapy and another group of children with DLD who were provided delayed therapy. The therapy involved videotaping parents/carers and their children carrying out an activity. The therapists and parents then reviewing the video, discussing how the interaction could be improved for the next session. They compared both groups on factors predicting communication abilities such as children’s ability to start conversations, proportion of child-to-parent utterances, average sentence length, children’s non-verbal responses and verbal responses to parents. What was found:

  • Therapy helped with improving children’s ability to start conversations, their average utterance length and increased the proportion of child-to-parent utterances. These improvements were not present in the group who were not provided therapy immediately.

  • Therapy did not positively affect children’s non-verbal responses to parents’ communication.

  • Although there was an increase in verbal responses to parents’ communication, this was not significant.

What does this mean? Therapy focusing on helping parents improve their interaction with children who have DLD is useful for aiding certain communication skills, including verbalisation and utterance length. However, these effects were not seen with children’s verbal and non-verbal responses. These findings show that interventions working to improve parent-child interactions can be useful in addition to interventions working more on the child’s language problems. Parents were encouraged by therapists to give the child more time to speak, praising them, and speaking slowly so that the child understands. These are a few of the recommendations which led to improvements in children’s communication abilities. Where can I read this paper? The accepted paper is has been made available as an open access version. Please click here to find the full paper.


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