How Engaged are Preschool Children in Speech and Language Therapy? A methodology to aid investigation

TitleHow Engaged are Preschool Children in Speech and Language Therapy? A methodology to aid investigation
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsHarding, S, Blackwell, A, Roulstone, S

Traditionally, childhood and children’s lives have been explored solely through the views and understandings of their adult caretakers (parents/ grandparents/ guardians/ teachers etc) who claim to speak for children.  This renders the child as an object and excludes them from the research process.  This view is being challenged by researchers and practitioners who see children as possessing distinctive cognitive and social developmental characteristics with which the researcher, wishing to use child informants, must consider during the research design and methodology.  It is important that the child is recognised as integral to the process and practice of the research and that they are able to act as reflective participants/practitioners.  Historically their participation has been conditional upon their age and cognitive development/competencies.  This has continued to exclude particular groups / ages of children.  However, just because something is challenging does not mean it should be avoided.
This presentation will report on the process of children’s engagement within a programme of research (Child Talk –What Works) that aims to develop a model of targeted interventions for preschool children with primary speech and language impairments.  The data collection methodology is inspired by the Mosaic approach.  It is designed to explore the child’s overall feelings and perceptions of Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) interventions.  The children are between the ages of 2 and 5;11, are seen in a familiar setting (such as a playgroup), and are seen in groups of four, for four sessions.
Selected SLT interventions are undertaken with the groups.  The environment is video and audio recorded and an additional camera is worn by the children (on a headband), to provide a ‘child’s eye view’.  These recordings are subsequently analysed for behavioural markers such as levels of engagement (e.g. eye contact, time on an activity).  Following the SLT intervention, the children participate in a play-based/creative arts session, facilitated by an arts therapy practitioner, involving methods such as music making or story telling.  The aim is to aid each of the children to reflect on the experience of the SLT intervention.  The techniques are chosen following consideration of the cultural context, familiarity and likely responsiveness of the children.  For example, storytelling is a known context for children; stories can be created in which children participate and thereby show their perspectives on a certain question; stories can be created about SLT interventions that allow children to indicate how they might feel about such interventions. 
To gain further insight the SLT and Art Therapy Practitioner will reflect-on-action and formally discuss and record their thoughts, feelings and experiences of the session in relation to how they felt the child had experienced their interaction.  The last piece of the mosaic is provided by the parents of the individual children.  They review the video of the SLT intervention and providing a commentary about their child’s engagement and enjoyment.
The presentation will discuss the value of the Mosaic approach and its potential to hear the ‘voice of the child’ in service evaluation to understand the child’s views in SLT interventions.