This article reports the results from a feasibility study of an intervention (‘E-PLAYS’) aimed at supporting children who experience difficulties with social communication. E-PLAYS is based around a dyadic computer game, which aims to develop collaborative and communication skills. A pilot study found that when E-PLAYS was delivered by researchers, improvements on communication test scores and on collaborative behaviours were observed. The aim of this study was to ascertain the feasibility of running a full-scale trial to test the effectiveness of E-PLAYS in a National Health Service (NHS) setting with delivery by speech and language therapists and teaching assistants.
The study was a two-arm feasibility cluster-randomised controlled trial of the E-PLAYS intervention with a treatment as usual control arm. Data relating to recruitment and retention, treatment fidelity, acceptability to participants, suitability of outcomes and feasibility of collecting health economic measures and of determining cost-effectiveness were collected.
Speech and language therapists selected suitable children (ages 4–7 years old) from their caseload. E-PLAYS intervention (experimental group) was then delivered by teaching assistants overseen by speech and language therapists. The control group received usual care. Assessments included blinded language measures and observations, non-blinded teacher-reported measures of peer relations and classroom behaviour and non-blinded parent-reported use of health and education resources and quality of life.
Planned recruitment was for 70 children, in the event, 50 children were recruited which was sufficient for feasibility purposes. E-PLAYS was very highly rated by children, teaching assistants and speech and language therapists and treatment fidelity did not pose any issues. We were able to collect health economic data which suggests that E-PLAYS would be a low-cost intervention.
Based on recruitment, retention and adherence rates and our outcome measures, a full-scale randomised controlled trial estimated appears feasible and warranted to assess the effectiveness of E-PLAYS for use by the NHS and schools.
ISRCTN 14818949 (retrospectively registered).