SHORTAGES of qualified therapists are forcing health and education services to reconsider their approaches to children with speech and language difficulties who struggle in mainstream school.
Researchers from Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities have won a pound;736,000 contract to test different ways of working intensively with children, aged between six and 11, who are in mainstream schools but are known to face problems.
The initiative could lead to group work or therapy by assistants, but under the guidance of qualified speech and language therapists.
Difficulties can include problems with understanding, expression, articulation, phonology, voice and fluency. Most problems in children are developmental, although some may be caused by injury or a medical condition.
The project, involving Yorkhill NHS Trust in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, will study four groups of children. Each child will be randomly assigned intensive speech and language therapy either in groups or individually. Some will work with qualified staff, others will work with assistants who will be responsible to qualified staff.
Jim Boyle, a Strathclyde University researcher, said: "Most speech and language difficulties in children are identified early by parents and by the time they reach school, half of these children will have caught up and go on to attend mainstream schools.
"The other half, with more persistent problems, will also go on to mainstream as a rule, but their difficulties can pose problems in school and family life."