The ‘StarTalking’ project, conducted by Isobel Pickering (Highly Specialist SLT) and assisted by Rachel Pennick, evaluated the effectiveness of an activity box for parents to use at home with very young children, often while waiting for speech therapy to become available. The play-based activities were lent to 16 Suffolk families for a period of around three months, supported by phone calls and visits from the research team. Parents kept track of the children’s progress using a speech rating system.
Feedback, obtained from 11 parents and largely positive, included: “Her speech has been so smooth for so long; I’ve forgotten about it.” “It helped me to learn to cope... we didn’t know what to do.” “It was the most supportive medical intervention I have ever experienced for my child.” Analysis of the speech data from 12 families indicated that the therapy had ‘value’ and was appreciated as a method of creating fluency. None of the children’s fluency worsened and the majority saw improvements. Due to the relatively small-scale nature of the project, it is not possible to say that this therapy ‘works’ as it has not been compared with other studies – or with placebo. However the research has indicated how this type of approach could, after more rigorous testing and some improvements to equipment and method of delivery, offer an alternative to the more traditional type of clinic-based therapy for some families.