Behind the statistics – Making the difference

Statistics are important, however behind the facts and figures are real children with lived experiences. Claire Morrison, an NHS Speech and Language Therapist, talks about her work using evidence-based programmes and interventions in a deprived area of Scotland.

Because it had not been launched before on the west coast of Scotland, we decided to pilot an intervention programme in North Ayrshire and then monitor it’s impact. The area was chosen as it was identified as one of the ‘challenge authorities’, all part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. In more deprived areas like this, language delay is all too common, approximately 40-50% (sometimes up to 80%) of children start school with delayed language, meaning they aren’t able to engage fully at school. We worked using I CAN’s Talk Boost KS1 in one school during the last summer term in 2017.

We engaged with the children three times a week as per the programme for ten weeks, and tracked the children’s progress for the two weeks leading up to the intervention and two weeks after.

After the first couple of weeks, when everyone was getting their head around the resources and session plans, we really started to see big changes. The children had grown significantly in confidence, and had gotten used to enjoying the routine. By week ten you could clearly see a marked improvement in their storytelling and literacy.

One child in particular stands out in my mind, a six year old boy with language delay, who was a very reluctant communicator in schooland wasn’t really initiating or interacting with other children. He was spending part of his week in the school’s Nurture Provision to promote his self-esteem and confidence, however he effectively flew under the radar his difficulties with language weren’t picked up. He had only spoken in one-on-one situations with before, and when he had, his language was very muddled and disjointed. As a result, he was lacking confidence to communicate with anyone.

With intense targeted input via the Talk Boost programme, week by week, he started talking more and his abilities went up astonishingly. It was noticed even round the school, outside of lessons, he started becoming more confident. He had his first conversations with peers and even started talking with the janitor and the head-teacher! As he became more comfortable in lessons, his vocabulary and storytelling improved and by the end of the 10 weeks he was chatting away, you couldn’t get him to stop. Within such a short space of time, he went from saying nothing at all to being a complete chatterbox. His results showed this, going from attaining ‘amber scores’ to showing all ‘green’ in assessments.

He wasn’t the only one. The programme had proved really effective; we felt the children had made really big gains in their spoken language. Teachers were reporting that it was transferring into their literacy and written language as well.

The results speak for themselves, in the Primary One and Two groups, there was an increase in 118% in narrative scores, i.e. the ability for children to recount and tell stories; such an important skill. 83% of children had ‘age appropriate social interaction skills’ after Talk Boost, and a whopping 65% increased vocabulary after the programme. The programme was a complete success.

Recalling the statistical results of running programmes like this is important; we need to know our programmes are effective. However, the reality of a well-conceived, evidence based intervention for me was best highlighted through the experience of the children.

Want to know more?

If you would like to find out more about Talk Boost KS1 please follow the link or get in touch:

talkboostks1@ican.org.uk or 0207 843 2515