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Parents' and speech and language therapists' explanatory models of language development, language delay and intervention

Marshall, Julie and Goldbart, Juliet and Phillips, Julie (2007) Parents' and speech and language therapists' explanatory models of language development, language delay and intervention. International journal of language and communication disorders, 42 (5). pp. 533-555. ISSN 1368-2822

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Abstract

Background: Parental and speech and language therapist (SLT) explanatory models may affect engagement with speech and language therapy, but there has been dearth of research in this area. This study investigated parents’ and SLTs’ views about language development, delay and intervention in pre-school children with language delay. Aims: The aims were to describe, explore and explain the thoughts, understandings, perceptions, beliefs, knowledge and feelings held by: a group of parents from East Manchester, UK, whose pre-school children had been referred with suspected language delay; and SLTs working in the same area, in relation to language development, language delay and language intervention. Methods & Procedures: A total of 24 unstructured interviews were carried out: 15 with parents whose children had been referred for speech and language therapy and nine with SLTs who worked with pre-school children. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using Atlas/ti. The data were analysed, subjected to respondent validation, and grounded theories and principled descriptions developed to explain and describe parents’ and SLTs’ beliefs and views. Outcomes & Results: Parent and SLT data are presented separately. There are commonalities and differences between the parents and the SLTs. Both groups believe that language development and delay are influenced by both external and internal factors. Parents give more weight to the role of gender, imitation and personality and value television and videos, whereas the SLTs value the ‘right environment’ and listening skills and consider that health/disability and socio-economic factors are important. Parents see themselves as experts on their child and have varied ideas about the role of SLTs, which do not always accord with SLTs’ views. The parents and SLTs differ in their views of the roles of imitation and play in intervention. Parents typically try strategies before seeing an SLT. Conclusions: These data suggest that parents’ ideas vary and that, although parents and SLTs may share some views, there are some important differences. These views have implications for the provision of appropriate services. Although this is a small sample from one group in the UK, the results indicate the need to investigate the views of other groups of parents.

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