UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


LangCog Seminar - Lucy Hughes

20 November 2024, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Lucy Hughes headshot

Better Conversations with Developmental Language Disorder: optimising interventions and support for school-aged children with DLD.

This event is free.

Event Information

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Rebecca Norman & Richard Talbot – Language & Cognition
0207 504 4157


Chandler House
2 Wakefield Street
United Kingdom

Developmental language disorder (DLD) affects around two pupils in every UK classroom and can impact on education and social well-being. Up to now, interventions for school-aged children with DLD have been targeted at vocabulary, grammar or narrative skills. This talk will describe the development and early evaluation of a new co-produced intervention, 'Better Conversations with Developmental Language Disorder' (BCDLD), grounded in parent-child interaction therapy and communication partner training, both evidence-based approaches used widely with other clinical populations.

Six children with DLD (aged 6;06 - 8;02 years) participated in BCDLD with their main carers. The study employed conversation-based outcome measures, which were novel for this client group. Each dyad took part in pre-therapy assessment and six conversation-focused therapy sessions. Video feedback was used to highlight facilitative and barrier strategies within their talk and to agree targets for change. Follow-up conversation and language-based measures evaluated progress in response to intervention.

Experimentally-controlled outcomes showed an increase in children's average utterance length and a statistically significant decrease in the use of barrier conversation behaviours for five dyads. Change in child-to-adult ratio of speech was achieved, in line with intervention targets. Children also showed progress on standardised assessments, including the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals. Feasibility findings provided strong support for the further development of the intervention, while conversation analysis revealed the potential for adult turns to shape the development of children's language and communication.

Larger-scale studies will be needed to establish whether these results can be generalised to the wider population of children with language disorder. Given the enduring impact of poor spoken language on educational attainment and well-being, continued research on evidence-based interventions for school-aged children with language disorder should be seen as a high priority for both health and education. This study indicates that primary school-aged children can benefit from a theoretically-grounded programme targeted at their everyday communication skills. The talk will also present an overview of ongoing work, which is being carried out to identify future priorities for DLD research and investigate other promising support programmes for this client group.

About the Speaker

Lucy Hughes

Speech & Language Therapist at Moor House Research & Training Institute

Lucy is an advanced speech & language therapist and researcher

More about Lucy Hughes