Solent NHS TrustHigh quality community and mental health services

Research into language delays

Published: 16/03/2017

A Solent NHS Trust led study into helping children diagnosed with delays in talking has been boosted by a six figure grant from the Nuffield Foundation.

As part of the research, 160 Portsmouth and Southampton families whose 2- 3 year olds have been clinically diagnosed with early language delay will be invited to participate in a group based programme.

Dr Deborah Gibbard, recipient of the £314,711 grant from the Foundation, said 8-10 families per group will receive 10 sessions over a 20 week period as part of the study.

“Our intervention, delivered by a speech and language therapist, is designed to teach parents how to develop their child’s language at home. This has been shown to be broadly effective and we are grateful to the Foundation for supporting our local study to help disadvantaged families in our cities.

According to Dr Gibbard, early treatment for language problems is important to help prevent low educational achievement and poorer outcomes later in life. Additionally, early intervention and parental involvement in treatment has proven beneficial for pre-school children experiencing language development difficulties.

“A pilot project we developed in Portsmouth showed enhanced parent intervention is viable in a community setting. This study will look at the effects on parental skills, attitude, confidence and engagement with treatment, in addition to outcomes for children,” added Dr Gibbard.

Success of the parent groups will be valuable for socially disadvantaged communities given the long lasting effects of children's language delay on education, personality, employment and wider society.

“More importantly, the families will benefit from a reduction in health and social inequalities that impact on the individual, family and wider communities, ensuring children have the best possible start in life.”

The study will, therefore, target socially disadvantaged families and equip parents with skills to help their children overcome language challenges. Families will be recruited through a speech and language therapist, following an initial assessment with the service.

The research trial, which will run from April 2017 to March 2020, will be led by Dr Gibbard. Other team members include Professor Sue Roulstone of University of West of England, Dr Chris Markham of University of Portsmouth and Dr Clare Smith, speech and language therapist from Solent NHS Trust.

Dr Gibbard can be contacted for further information. Ends

Notes for Editors:

Solent NHS Trust was created on 1 April 2011 and specialises in providing high quality community and mental health services. We operate out of more than 120 sites across Southampton, Portsmouth and Hampshire.


· The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More information is available at

The Nuffield Foundation has created a project page on their website for this research study, see

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