Navigation

News and events

Research looks to help children with social communication difficulties

Research looks to help children with social communication difficulties Banner Image

UCLan speech and language expert collaborates on research aimed to help children with ‘hidden’ speech and language problems

A new NHS programme lead by the University of Manchester in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will help children with 'hidden' speech and language problems.

The Social Communication Intervention Programme (SCIP) was developed by one of the UK's leading experts in the field, Dr Catherine Adams from the University of Manchester, and research speech and language therapist (SLT) Jacqueline Gaile. The research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit Programme, is a new therapy intervention that has been specifically designed to help children with social communication disorder (SCD). It is led by Dr Catherine Adams at the University of Manchester, in collaboration with Dr Elaine Lockton, Dr Richard Emsley also from the University of Manchester, Dr Hazel Roddam from UCLan, and Dr Janet Baxendale from Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, to train speech and language therapists to use this approach in local clinics.

Children with SCD find it hard to understand and use language, especially in social situations. Although they may be quite chatty – so their difficulties aren’t always spotted – their problems expressing themselves and understanding others can affect how they do at school, their friendships and their emotional and mental health. Children with SCD might lack tact, have difficulty in telling a story so it can be understood and struggle to understand others. They may also have autistic traits.

One parent whose views have helped to shape the research is Clare Cusack, whose son Tomas, 16, has SCD with elements of autism. He has worked with Jacqueline for five years. Clare said: “Tomas has had to learn the social rules that come naturally to others, such as being persuasive or having a reciprocal conversation. One size doesn’t fit all with conditions like these – it’s really important that the help he gets is completely sensitive to his needs. Learning these skills has made him more independent and given a voice to his personality, so that people can get to know the real Tomas.”

Dr Adams, clinical senior lecturer in speech and language therapy at the University of Manchester, commented: “We know there is an association between these communication problems and behavioural difficulties that continue into adolescence. These can have huge repercussions and affect the whole family.”

Reader in Allied Health Practice and speech and language therapist Dr Roddam is leading the survey of current practice in services for this group of children. This will look at how many children in England are affected and what sort of help they are getting, as it’s a condition that hasn’t always been recognised. She will also lead the evaluation of how this new way of working is perceived by all stakeholders – including therapists, parents and the children themselves.

We know there is an association between these communication problems and behavioural difficulties that continue into adolescence. These can have huge repercussions and affect the whole family.

Dr Roddam commented: “This is a prestigious award from National Institute for Health Research and the project is very important as it will help us to understand how real-world healthcare services are able to implement evidence-based practice changes. I am delighted to be working with colleagues from University of Manchester and the clinical teams in Salford”.

The study is also breaking new ground in the way results will be measured – because the 24 primary school children who will be involved have different needs, individualised aims will be set up and progress measured against these. The project will run for two years.  Please email catherine.adams@manchester.ac.uk for more information.

Press Office | 15 July 2016