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 2-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 during routine developmental check-ups in general paediatric practices, using a German parent-report screening questionnaire (adapted from the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories). Standardised instruments were used to assess the language and non-verbal cognitive abilities of these children and of 36 other children with normal language development (reference group; mean age 24.6 months, SD 0.8). 58 children with SELD were sequentially randomly assigned to an intervention group (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 to 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 for specific language impairment (t score ⩽35).
Conclusions: By applying the short, highly structured HPLI in children with SELD, the rate of treatment for language impairment at the age of 3 years can be significantly reduced.
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Funding: This study was funded by the Leopold Klinge Foundation, the C.D. Foundation, the Zonta Club Heidelberg and the Günter-Reimann-Dubbers Foundation. These foundations were not involved in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, in the writing of the manuscript or in the decision to submit.
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the University of Heidelberg.
We declare that we participated in the study entitled “Parent based language intervention for 2-year-old children with specific expressive language delay: a randomised controlled trial”, and that we have seen and approved the final version. We shared in designing and executing the study, analysing the results and writing the manuscript. It has been neither published nor submitted elsewhere.