Direct versus indirect and individual versus group modes of language therapy for children with primary language impairment: principal outcomes from a randomized controlled trial and economic evaluation

James Boyle, E. McCartney, A. O'Hare, J. Forbes

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Many school-age children with language impairments are enrolled in mainstream schools and receive indirect language therapy, but there have been, to the authors' knowledge, no previous controlled studies comparing the outcomes and costs of direct and indirect intervention delivered by qualified therapists and therapy assistants, and each delivery mode offered to children individually or in groups. To investigate the relative effectiveness of indirect and direct intervention therapy modes delivered individually or in groups for children with primary language impairment. A multi-centre randomized controlled trial investigated 161 children with primary language impairment aged 6-11 years randomized to a usual-therapy control group or to direct individual, indirect individual, direct group or indirect group therapy modes. Intervention was delivered three times a week for 30-40-min sessions in mainstream schools over 15 weeks. Language performance was assessed at baseline, post-therapy and at 12 months. Cost analysis was based on salary and travel costs for intervention modes and usual therapy. Compared with controls, children receiving project therapy made short-term improvements in expressive (p=0.031), but not receptive, language immediately following intervention. Children with specific expressive language delay were more likely to show improvement than those with mixed receptive-expressive difficulties. The four project therapy modes did not differ on primary language outcomes (all p-values>0.392) and there were no further improvements evident at follow-up. Indirect group therapy was the least costly mode, with direct individual therapy the most costly. Intervention in this age group can be effective for expressive language and can be delivered equally effectively though speech and language therapy assistants and to children in groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-846
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • speech and language therapy
  • randomized control trial
  • RCT
  • developmental language impairment
  • expressive language
  • receptive language

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