Speech and Language Therapists’ Perceptions of Universal/Targeted Service Delivery in Areas of Social Disadvantage in Scotland
The evidence base has demonstrated a need for early intervention and prevention of language difficulties that can affect attainment in children/youth in areas of social disadvantage. Recognizing this need and other needs of disadvantaged children/youth, the Scottish Government has addressed these issues with policy that has helped create a new role for speech and language therapists (SLTs) in universal and targeted services (UTS). However, little is known about SLTs’ work in this area. This study investigated the nature of SLTs’ work when delivering UTS when working to close the poverty related attainment gap in Scotland. This research also studied SLTs’ perceptions, barriers, facilitators, and insights into improving these services. This mixed methods study recruited 28 SLTs Scotland wide. Quantitative data showed that the majority of participants were focussing on developing listening and attention, language, narrative, and phonological awareness skills in children/youth and were also upskilling parents/carers and teachers. To do this, SLTs in these services were employing treatments like Colourful Semantics and Adult-Child Interaction. Information about funding, clinical settings, treatment planning, and dosage was also found. Qualitative data derived from thematic analysis revealed main themes about who, what, and how SLTs were measuring outcomes; barriers to these services such as barriers within speech and language therapy services and to parent/carer engagement; facilitators to these services like relationships and partnership working; and improvements like service model enhancements. Together, these findings help contribute to clinical knowledge by adding to an emerging evidence base within Speech and Language Therapy (SLT).