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Evaluating delivery by teaching assistants of a working memory training intervention for children with developmental language disorder


1st supervisor: Prof Lucy Henry

2nd supervisor: Prof Shula Chiat

3rd supervisor: Prof David Messer (Visiting Professor)

Research centre

Language and Communication Science

Project description

Working memory describes skills used for everyday thinking and reasoning.  Many believe that working memory underpins children’s understanding of spoken language and reading comprehension.

In previous research, the supervisory team found that working memory abilities in primary school age children could be dramatically improved using a relatively short, face-to-face training intervention; more significantly, this intervention boosted reading comprehension 12 months post-intervention (Henry, Messer & Nash, 2014).  A recent PhD project at City (Christopher, Messer, Chiat & Henry, 2018) used this working memory training intervention in primary school-age children with developmental language disorder (DLD, n=47), half of whom were randomised to receive the intervention (and half active control).  Not only were there dramatic improvements in working memory for the intervention group, there were significant improvements in sentence comprehension and reading accuracy.

These promising results will be followed up in the current PhD by assessing whether teaching assistants can deliver the intervention to primary school-age children with DLD, and evaluating outcomes.  Using a participatory model, the PhD student will write a manual describing the training procedure, incorporating direct input from teaching assistants, parents and children via focus groups.  He/she will provide information to teaching assistants who will deliver the intervention within school settings.  Children with DLD will be randomly allocated to receive the intervention immediately or after a delay; and pre, post and follow-up assessments using standardised measures of working memory and language/reading comprehension will be administered blind.  If successful using this delivery model, the stand-alone intervention package can be rolled out to children with DLD via education (and potentially health) practitioners.

If you would like to have an informal discussion please contact Lucy.Henry.1@city.ac.uk.