31 March 2021

Research Roundup - March 2021

Primary/Interventions

E-PLAYS is a computer game designed to support children with social communication difficulties.  A previous pilot study found that E-PLAYS was successful in improving children’s collaborative behaviours and scores on tests of their communication skills.  This study aimed to look at how the E-PLAYS could be rolled out via a NHS Speech and Language Therapy service.  The study was designed as a randomised control trial with a ‘treatment as usual’ control group and some measures administered by practitioners who were ‘blind’ to which group the children were in.  E-PLAYS was highly rated by children and staff in schools although there were some challenges in recruiting and retaining children from a range of backgrounds.  The researchers found that a full scale randomised control trial would be warranted and feasible to investigate delivery by SaLT departments and directly to schools.

Murphy, S., Joffe, V., Donald, L. et al. Evaluating ‘Enhancing Pragmatic Language skills for Young children with Social communication impairments’ (E-PLAYS): a feasibility cluster-randomised controlled trial. Pilot Feasibility Studies, volume 7, article 5 (2021).

Language skills, and not executive functions, predict the development of reading comprehension of early readers: evidence from an orthographically transparent language.  This Romanian based study looked at reading comprehension development and investigate the role of executive function.  The findings indicate that once children have learned how to decode well its their oral language skills which are most important in developing their understanding of what they are reading. The authors conclude ‘Therefore, reading interventions in elementary school should stress on the development of oral language skills.'

Dolean, D.D., Lervåg, A., Visu-Petra, L. et al. Language skills, and not executive functions, predict the development of reading comprehension of early readers: evidence from an orthographically transparent language. Reading and Writing (2021).

Educational outcomes associated with persistent speech disorder

This study used data from the large UK population‐based study—the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to look at links between persistent speech disorder (PSD) and attainment.  The authors found that children with PSD at age 8 years were more likely to achieve lower attainment scores at ages 10–11 years in English and mathematics and across all three subjects of English, mathematics and science at ages 13–14 years. They were also more likely to receive a label of SEN (typically for the category of cognition and learning needs or communication and interaction needs) in secondary school.  The study concludes that on-going monitoring and support for children with long term PSD is essential and that knowing children’s history of PSD will enable the right support to be put in place on transition to Secondary school.

Wren, Y., Pagnamenta, E., Peters, T.J., Emond, A., Northstone, K., Miller, L.L. and Roulstone, S. (2021), Educational outcomes associated with persistent speech disorder. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. 

COVID-19

Sutton Trust – Remote Learning and the Digital Divide

Teacher Tapp surveyed up to 6,208 teachers in schools across England in the first week of January 2021. 10% of teachers overall report that all their students have adequate access to a device for remote learning. While 17% report that more than 1 in 5 of their students don’t have such access.  There was a big divide between the private and state sector and this was particularly marked in areas of disadvantage. 5% of teachers in state schools said all their pupils had internet access compared to 51% in private schools. The gaps had widened since the March 2020 lockdown.

https://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Remote-Learning-The-Digital-Divide-Final.pdf

Nuffield Foundation and NFER Special Education in Lockdown

School and college leaders felt that pupils’ overall needs had increased over the first national lockdown. 72% thought that a significant proportion of their pupils would require a greater amount of support after lockdown than was previously set out in their EHCPs. Parents and professionals felt that children and young people had lost skills and abilities and valuable development during the first lockdown. Families had also seen increased behavioural and mental health issues affecting their children. It was felt that the lockdown could impact on the future life chances of children with EHCPs, and that this situation would be compounded by any further disruption to learning.

https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Special_Education_Lockdown_ASKResearch.pdf

Education Endowment Fund: Impact of school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment and socio-emotional wellbeing in Key Stage 1: Interim Paper 1

Key findings

  • Year 2 pupils’ attainment in reading was significantly lower in autumn 2020 compared to a standardised sample from 2017; representing a COVID-19 gap of around two months’ progress.
  • Year 2 pupils’ attainment in mathematics was significantly lower in autumn 2020 compared to a standardised sample from 2017; representing a COVID-19 gap of around two months’ progress.
  • The disadvantage gap in reading is around seven months’ progress, which represents a widening as compared to Key Stage 1 in 2019.
  • The disadvantage gap in mathematics is around seven months’ progress, which represents a widening as compared to Key Stage 1 in 2019.

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Covid-19_Resources/Impact_of_school_closures_KS1_interim_findings_paper_-_Jan_2021.pdf

RCSLT survey - Building back better

The survey looked at the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people’s access to speech and language therapy services. 73% had not received face to face speech and language therapy since the end of lockdown (June 2020), 62% hadn’t had any therapy at all.  Of those who had 31% didn’t like of couldn’t access teletherapy and 38% either didn’t like or couldn’t access therapy by phone.  For 67%, having less speech and language therapy during lockdown (March – June 2020) made their education worse, and for 59%, it made their social life and friendships worse.

https://www.rcslt.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Building-back-better-March2021.pdf

EARLY YEARS

Royal Foundation Report:  Understanding Public Attitudes to the Early Years

This report covers the findings from a national survey of 5 Big Questions as well as from smaller focus groups and interviews.  Amongst the finding were that 98% of people taking part believe that the experiences of a child in the early years (i.e. nurture) influence how a child develops from the start of pregnancy to age 5. 60% felt “Good physical and mental health” are the most important factors for children to grow into happy adults. 63% of parents reported they had spent more quality time with their children over the COVID-19 period but single parents and those experiencing financial hardship were more likely to say they had sent less quality time. Parents spoke about the importance of informal support networks and also about feeling judged as parents and the negative effect this had on their confidence and their mental health. They also felt they lacked information about development in the early years:

“Any milestones before the baby starts to communicate with you, I didn't have a clue. And I don't think any mum has a clue of what the baby should be doing.” Mother of 3-year-old, London

https://mk0royalfoundatcnhl0.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ipsos-MORI-SON_report_FINAL_V2.4.pdf

MENTAL HEALTH/WELLBEING

Children’s Commissioner 

The outgoing Commissioner, Anne Longfield, published a report on Children’s Mental Health. The report, covering the period to the end of March 2020. showed that before the pandemic, referrals to children’s mental health services increased by 35% while the number of children accessing treatment increased by just 4%. An NHS study in July 2020 found that clinically significant mental health conditions amongst children had risen by 50% compared to three years earlier. A staggering 1 in 6 children now have a probable mental health condition. There had already been a spike in referrals to NHS services by the Autumn of 2020.

https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/report/mental-health-services-2020-21/

Social Functioning as a mediator between Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and Emotional Problems in Adolescents

This investigation of the ‘social mediation hypothesis’ use the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to look at social functioning in groups of DLD and typically developing adolescents. The study found that parents of adolescents with DLD reported significantly higher peer and emotional problems compared to Typical Language Development (TLD) peers.  The adolescents with DLD did not report this.  The study suggests that further investigation into adolescents’ perceptions of socioemotional difficulties and friendships would be beneficial.

Forrest CL, Gibson JL, St Clair MC. Social Functioning as a Mediator between Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and Emotional Problems in AdolescentsInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(3):1221

Developmental Language Disorder

Why Clinicians Choose Their Language Intervention Approach: An International Perspective on Intervention for Children with Developmental Language Disorder.  This survey was developed by COST Action IS1406, an EU-funded research network, which included representation from 39 countries. 2,408 practitioners answered questions in relation to their decision making for a specific child of their choosing with DLD. The authors report that ‘A limited number of practitioners reported use of external scientific evidence, which suggests that there should be more initiatives in basic training of practitioners and continuing professional development to encourage the uptake of scientific evidence-based practice.’

Forsythe R, Murphy CA, Tulip J, Law J. Why Clinicians Choose Their Language Intervention Approach: An International Perspective on Intervention for Children with Developmental Language Disorder. Folia Phoniatr Logop. 2021 Jan 28:1-15. doi: 10.1159/000513242. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33508820.

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