Happy Talk: A pilot effectiveness study of a targeted-selective speechâ language and communication intervention for children from areas of social disadvantage

Thumbnail Image
1460-6984.12648.pdf(1.43 MB)
Published version
jlcd12648-sup-0001-suppmat.docx(35.82 KB)
Supporting Information
Frizelle, Pauline
Mullane, Elaine
O'Shea, Aoife
Ceroni, Anna
Dahly, Darren L.
Horgan, Anne
Levickis, Penny
McKean, Cristina
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Background: Despite the public health implications of language difficulties associated with social disadvantage, there is a dearth of effectiveness studies investigating the effects of targeted speech and language programmes in this area. Aims: To determine the effects of a targeted selective community-based child language intervention programme (Happy Talk), which simultaneously engaged with parents and early childhood educators, in the Republic of Ireland. Methods & Procedures: A mixed methods methodology was applied with quantitative outcome and qualitative process data collected. Effectiveness was examined using a quasi-experimental single blind study design comparing Happy Talk with ‘usual care’ across four preschools. Qualitative process data were also gathered to examine the acceptability and feasibility of the Happy Talk approach in practice, and to identify factors to improve the probability of successful wider implementation. Child language (PLS-5) and quality-of-life measures were administered pre- and immediately post- the 11-week intervention. Responsiveness was assessed as the parental outcome, and the oral language environment of preschools was measured using the Communication Supporting Classroom Observation Tool (CSCOT). Retrospective acceptability was analysed with reference to the theoretical framework of acceptability (v 2). Outcomes & Results: Pre-/post-expressive and composite language scores were collected for 58 children, and receptive scores for 54 children. Multiple linear regression revealed significant intervention effects for comprehension and total language with large and moderate effect sizes, respectively (0.60 and 0.46 SD). No significant effect was shown for parental responsiveness. No effects were found for the preschool environment or children's quality of life. Preschool staff deemed the programme to be an acceptable method of enhancing children's speech and language skills and rated the intervention positively. Conclusions & Implications: The Happy Talk pilot effectiveness trial shows that comprehension can be improved (with a large effect) in preschool children from areas of social disadvantage, following an 11-week intervention, in which parents and preschool staff are simultaneously engaged. The ecological validity of the programme, as well as feasibility and acceptability to staff, make it a suitable programme to be delivered at scale.
Happy Talk programme , Language difficulties , Child language intervention programme , Ireland
Frizelle, P., Mullane, E., O'Shea, A., Ceroni, A., Dahly, D., Horgan, A., Levickis, P. and Mckean, C. (2021) 'Happy Talk: A pilot effectiveness study of a targeted-selective speech–language and communication intervention for children from areas of social disadvantage', International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12648