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I CAN speaks to Dr Catherine Adams about her work developing a new specialist speech and language therapy intervention

Last week, I CAN spoke to Dr Catherine Adams, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy at the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, to find out more about her work developing the Social Communication Intervention Programme. Here she discusses her reasons for starting the project, hopes for the future and exciting new projects to come.

For those of us that don’t know, what is the Social Communication Intervention Programme (SCIP)?

SCIP is a specialist speech and language therapy intervention for children who have Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorders and who are aged between six and 11 years. These children tend to have very complex and long-lasting language and social communication needs. My colleague, Jacqueline Gaile, and myself developed SCIP over a number of years to help therapists build a framework for planning and delivering an intervention for these children that matches their individual needs, because we really couldn’t find anything suitable to support our therapy. We were convinced that we needed something that would allow us to tackle the underlying language difficulties of these children, rather than relying on social skills training alone. SCIP contains a method of assessing individual needs and mapping these to a number of different therapy goals, across three areas: Social Understanding and Social Interpretation, Pragmatics and Language Processing (high-level comprehension and expression). The programme is presented as a manual (with step-by-step instructions) and over 150 therapy activities. SCIP needs to be supervised by a specialist speech and language therapist but some work can be passed on to trained assistants. SCIP intervention has an evidence base and appears in the Communication Trust’s ‘What Works’ resource.

Can you tell us a little bit about the new project that is about to start?

Our new project is called SCIP 2 (SCIP x SCIP!) This is short for SCIP – Single Cases In Practice. In our previous work, we delivered SCIP ourselves in schools. Now we want to see if we can pass the intervention on to speech and language therapists working with these children in routine practice.  So we will be training a small number of willing therapists to carry out a single case study of a child with Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder (SPCD), using the SCIP programme, and evaluating the outcomes using a novel, individualised method of measurement.

We also need to find out what the need for support for these children and their families is. So we are about to send out a survey to speech and language therapists in the UK to ask them about the prevalence of SPCD, what kind of therapy they deliver and what their training needs are. If anyone would like to be involved in the survey (which is anonymous) they can email me.

What are your main hopes for the project? Are there some changes that you’d like to see happen?

We are hoping that we will have a breakthrough in having a way to measure individual progress in children and young people that have complex and diverse needs. Often outcomes with these children fail to show the important progress they make in their functional language skills because of the sorts of measures we are stuck with. The data gathered will be also used to decide whether a full randomised controlled trial of SCIP in routine practice is feasible.  In that way we are really trying for a big push in developing the evidence to support therapy for these children, and to make sure that they get the services that they need – and that therapists are allowed to do the therapy that is required. We also aim to change the way that therapists think about managing pragmatic difficulties and allow them to develop a personalised approach to each child’s needs using the SCIP framework. We’ve been using it in therapy for a while now and we can’t do without it!

And finally, how can we find out more about the SCIP programme?

The project has just begun so our website is under development. You can find out about our previous research here.

If you want to be involved in our new research, we would be very happy to hear from practitioners who want to participate in the survey or the single case studies. Please email either me at catherine.adams@manchester.ac.uk or Jacqueline.gaile-2@manchester.ac.uk.

You can see more about the SCIP manual and resource which can be purchased from www.napierhillpress.co.uk.

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