Objective: The aim of this randomised controlled trial was to evaluate the effectiveness of a short, highly structured parent-based language intervention group programme for two-year-old children with specific expressive language delay (SELD, without deficits in receptive language).
Methods: 61 children with SELD (mean age 24.7 months, SD 0.9) were selected between October 2003 and February 2006 in general paediatric practices during routine developmental check-ups, using a German parent-report screening questionnaire (adapted from MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories). Standardized instruments were used to assess language and nonverbal cognitive abilities for all children including 36 children with normal language development as a reference group (mean age 24.6 months, SD 0.8). 58 children with SELD were sequentially randomly assigned to the intervention (n = 29) or a 12-month waiting group (n = 29). In the intervention group, mothers participated in the 3-month “Heidelberg Parent-based Language Intervention” HPLI. All children were reassessed 6 and 12 months after pretest. Assessors were blind of allocation and previous results.
Results: 47 children were included in the analysis. At the age of 3 years 75% of the children in the intervention group showed normal expressive language abilities in contrast to 44% in the waiting group. Only 8% of the children in the intervention group versus 26% in the waiting group met the criteria of specific language impairment (T-score equal/below 35).
Conclusions: By applying the short, highly structured parent-based language intervention HPLI in children with SELD, the rate of treatment for language impairment at the age of 3 years can be significantly reduced.
Identification Number (ClinicalTrials.gov): NTC00625261