Review on oral language comprehension interventions

Tarvainen, S., Launonen, K., & Stolt, S. (2021). Oral language comprehension interventions in school-age children and adolescents with developmental language disorder: A systematic scoping review. Autism & Developmental Language Impairments, 6(1), 1-24.


Aim of the paper:

While understanding spoken language is important for children’s social and academic performance, there is little research on interventions for oral language comprehension. This paper looks at 21 studies that include oral language comprehension interventions in school-age children and adolescents with DLD. The authors aim to understand the focus, effectiveness and level of evidence of these interventions.

What they found:

  • Three different focus of intervention were found:

  1. Language understanding, such as vocabulary understanding and comprehension of grammar

  2. Language processing, such as auditory processing and verbal memory

  3. Modifying the communicative environment, such as teacher’s communication skills in a classroom


  • 57% of the studies reported positive effects of intervention in improving oral language comprehension, 14% of the studies show mix results, and the remaining 29% show no effect.


  • Effectiveness differed based on the focus of the intervention. 75% of studies found interventions targeting language understanding effective, while only 38% of studies found interventions targeting language processing effective. There is only one study with communicative environment intervention and the study did find the intervention effective.


  • Most studies provided moderate level of confidence in the results. Only 19% of the studies provided a high confidence in the results.


What does this mean?

Overall, the result show that there are effective oral language comprehension interventions that school-age children and adolescents can benefit from. While it is encouraging to see that over half of the studies found a positive effect of intervention in improving oral language comprehension, most of the studies only show moderate level of confidence. The authors of this paper suggest that more research with a high level of evidence is needed.

Also, the results of this paper suggest that interventions that are effective focus on improving language understanding or modifying communicative environment, instead of targeting language processing. A careful choice of therapy technique is important for supporting oral language comprehension in school-age children and adolescents with DLD.

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.