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The efficacy of early language intervention in mainstream school settings: a randomized controlled trial

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JournalJournal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Mar 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 19 May 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Oct 2017
Issue number10
Volume58
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)1141-1151
Early online date19/05/17
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Background: Oral language skills are a critical foundation for literacy and more generally for educational success. The current study shows that oral language skills can be improved by providing suitable additional help to children with language difficulties in the early stages of formal education. Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial with 394 children in England, comparing a 30-week oral language intervention programme starting in nursery (N = 132) with a 20-week version of the same programme starting in Reception (N = 133). The intervention groups were compared to an untreated waiting control group (N = 129). The programmes were delivered by trained teaching assistants (TAs) working in the children's schools/nurseries. All testers were blind to group allocation. Results: Both the 20- and 30-week programmes produced improvements on primary outcome measures of oral language skill compared to the untreated control group. Effect sizes were small to moderate (20-week programme: d =.21; 30-week programme: d =.30) immediately following the intervention and were maintained at follow-up 6 months later. The difference in improvement between the 20-week and 30-week programmes was not statistically significant. Neither programme produced statistically significant improvements in children's early word reading or reading comprehension skills (secondary outcome measures). Conclusions: This study provides further evidence that oral language interventions can be delivered successfully by trained TAs to children with oral language difficulties in nursery and Reception classes. The methods evaluated have potentially important policy implications for early education.

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© 2017 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

    Research areas

  • Early intervention, RCT design, education, language, reading

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