November 15, 2012: The report found that a dedicated speech and language service would enable more children to receive the intervention earlier which would help to remove or reduce a significant disadvantage from them before starting school.
The Report was launched by the Childhood Development Initiative which has co-ordinated research and evaluation of early intervention and prevention approaches to improve outcomes for children in Tallaght West since 2007.
The Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapy Service was piloted from 2008-2011 and provided therapeutic support to 192 children who were otherwise unlikely to have been identified, referred, or supported through any other existing service in the area.
18% of children brought into the service were discharged following a period of support, meaning their skills had improved sufficiently to reach normal limits. Significantly more boys (62.5%) than girls (37.5%) were referred to the service.
CDI Chief Executive Marian Quinn said the pilot addressed a real need within the community and would equally be of benefit in other communities across the country.
“It is well-established that speech and language development can be of particular concern in disadvantaged areas and if this is not addressed by the time these children start primary school it causes difficulties for later literacy and learning. As well as the development of dedicated services for disadvantaged communities, we are recommending that all early years practitioners, teachers and related professionals receive appropriate training in speech and language development.”
The programme was independently evaluated by the Centre for Social and Educational Research at the Dublin Institute of Technology. The research also strongly highlighted the important role of parents.
“Educating parents on the need for, and value of, speech and language therapy is vital to promoting attendance at speech and language services. Also services are responsible for ensuring that parents are appropriately informed and involved in their child’s therapy process,” Ms. Quinn said.
Wider recommendations in the evaluation findings include:
- That all Government Departments commit to using evidence to inform planning and service delivery;
- That all services for children are evaluated, and those services and models which have no demonstrable impact on outcomes for children are incrementally removed, and replaced with evidence-based programmes.
Given the success of the programme, CDI received additional funding last August for the Speech and Language Therapy service to continue in Tallaght until March 2013.
The service also has also been more integrated into the existing services as the County Childcare Committee has taken on responsibility for employment of the therapists with support supervision from the HSE. CDI has worked in the community in Tallaght West since 2007 and in that time more than 2,000 children have participated in its eight programmes, of which the Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapy Service is one.
CDI is one of three Prevention and Early Intervention Programme organisations, jointly funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Atlantic Philanthropies. The Prevention and Early Intervention Programme explores new methods for improving outcomes for children in an integrated way, with a fund of €36 million.
Ronan Cavanagh, Communications Coordinator, Childhood Development Initiative: (086) 317 9731.