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LANGUAGE DELAYS – Treatment-Outcome Studies

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How many children have language delays?

Language development evolves with widely varying rates and sequences, and how we define a “language delay” also varies greatly, not only from state to state, but also from parent to parent.  Studies indicate that 1 to 18% of those less than 6 years old have a speech or language delay or disorder.  Sixty-seven to eighty-four percent of those with language delays or disorders are boys. 


What about a “WAIT & SEE” approach?

Of those under 2-years not yet talking who did not receive intervention

             66% remained delayed at 3 years

             50% remained delayed at 4 years

             25% remained delayed at 5 years (the other 75% were within normal limits, yet skewed toward the low end of the range).

Research Summary:

Michael Guralnick’s landmark 1997 book, “The Effectiveness of Early Intervention” examined 15 studies of young

children with language delays.  Techniques of therapy included: “Naturalistic” play-based therapy, child-directed therapy, antecedents and consequences with primary and secondary rewards, language immersion, and structured approaches including objective targets and arranged environments.  The duration of the interventions ranged from 6 weeks to one year.  The studies included children who had language-delays only, as well as language- with other developmental-delays.  The therapists were Speech Pathologists AND/OR Teachers, and parent consultation was always utilized.  The outcomes of the studies were as follows:


Child Initiated…………….       more effective and greater generalization than……  Adult Initiated

Integrated……………………  more effective and greater generalization than......    Pull-out therapy

Activity Based……………..    more effective and greater generalization than……  Direct Intervention

Modeling w/prompt…….…     more effective and greater generalization than……  Modeling alone

Interventions resulted in positive changes in parent-child interactions, and interventions resulted in significant improvement on standardized tests.