Early Talk Boost: The development of our new intervention for 3-4 year olds

By Louisa Reeves, Lead Communication Adivsor

I CAN’s latest early years project has been to develop an intervention to support children with delayed language and communication skills, as we know early years practitioners have concerns about the numbers of children with delayed language in their settings. We found this out through the Early Language Development Programme and from training and accrediting good practice through Early Talk. We wanted to develop an intervention which practitioners could use to help boost the language and communication skills of children with environmental language delay. These are children who for whatever reason haven’t had exposure to a good communication environment in the early years. We know that in areas of social deprivation there are larger numbers of children who haven’t had the opportunity to develop their language and communication skills.

The Early Talk Boost project has been a shining example of the collaborative effort across I CAN, from the expert early years teachers and speech and language therapists who have written it to the designers and business team who have helped shape its distinctive look and appeal. We also need to mention the good people at UBS Optimus Foundation who have funded the development and evaluation and made the project possible.

The collaboration reached others outside of I CAN too… the early years setting staff, parents and children themselves have also been instrumental in helping us to develop a really practical useable resource which children and adults love using. Jake and his friend Tizzy the tiger have captured children’s imaginations and parents have told us these have been the first books their children have really engaged with.

And the work didn’t stop when the programme has been developed…we needed to make sure it improved children’s language. It was important to us that we evaluated the intervention properly as part of a pilot project, so that early years managers and budget holders could be certain that they were getting value for money from their investment as well as knowing that Early Talk Boost really worked for children. With the support of our team of independent Evaluation Assistants and advice from Professor Tim Pring at City University, London we designed and carried out a range of quantitative and qualitative measures to see what the impact of Early Talk Boost was on children, their parents and early years practitioners themselves.

The settings recruited into the pilot were divided into two groups, one ran the intervention and the other formed a comparison group (who didn’t have the intervention, but would get it later on) so that we could measure the progress of the children in both groups. We used the Pre-School Language Scales (PLS-4) as a standardised measure of the children’s language and communication and when the results were analysed we found that the children in the intervention group made an average of 6 months progress compared to the 3months progress of the comparison group.

We were also keen to find out parents views on the effects of Early Talk Boost on children’s language. We had originally planned to ask parents to rate their children’s language and communication skills before and after the intervention but we found that their first ratings of their child’s skills didn’t match the early years practitioners view or what the tests showed. Subsequently we opted for a retrospective questionnaire asking parents to look back and reflect on any changes in the child’s language and communication skills. The results show that 89% of parents felt their child’s communication and language skills were better following the intervention. In fact parents reported improvements across the range of questions asked, from talking to family members to looking at books.

Now we have launched Early Talk Boost and started to train licensed tutors to roll out the intervention across the country we have started an exciting new phase of the project so keep an eye out for future updates.

To find out more about Early Talk Boost visit our website or get in touch on earlytalkboost@ican.org.uk or 0207 843 2515.