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Assessment and management of the communication difficulties of children with cerebral palsy: a UK survey of SLT practice

Lookup NU author(s): Rose Watson, Professor Lindsay Pennington



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


associated with motor, intellectual and sensory impairments. Speech and language therapy research comprises single case experimental design and small group studies, limiting evidence-based intervention and possibly exacerbating variation in practice. Aims. To describe the assessment and intervention practices of SLTs in the UK in their management of communication difficulties associated with cerebral palsy in childhood. Methods & Procedures. An online survey of the assessments and interventions employed by UK SLTs working with children and young people with cerebral palsy was conducted. The survey was publicised via NHS trusts, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and private practice associations using a variety of social media. The survey was open from 05.12.2011 – 30.01.2012 Outcomes & Results. Two hundred and sixty five UK SLTs who worked with children and young people with cerebral palsy in England (n= 199), Wales (n= 13), Scotland (n= 36) and Northern Ireland (n= 17) completed the survey. SLTs reported using a wide variety of published, standardised tests, but most commonly reported assessing oromotor function, speech, receptive and expressive language and communication skills by observation or using assessment schedules they had developed themselves. The most highly prioritised areas for intervention were: dysphagia, AAC/interaction and receptive language. SLTs reported using a wide variety of techniques to address difficulties in speech, language and communication. Some interventions used have no supporting evidence. Many SLTs felt unable to estimate the hours of therapy per year children and young people with cerebral palsy and communication disorders received from their service. Conclusions & Implications. The assessment and management of communication difficulties associated with cerebral palsy in childhood varies widely in the UK. Lack of standard assessment practices prevents comparisons across time or services. The adoption of a standard set of agreed clinical measures would enable benchmarking of service provision, permit the development of large scale research studies using routine clinical data and facilitate the identification of potential participants for research studies in the UK. Some interventions provided lack evidence. Recent systematic reviews could guide intervention, but robust evidence is needed in most areas addressed in clinical practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Watson RM, Pennington L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders

Year: 2015

Volume: 50

Issue: 2

Pages: 241-259

Print publication date: 04/03/2015

Online publication date: 04/02/2015

Acceptance date: 01/09/2014

Date deposited: 10/08/2015

ISSN (print): 1368-2822

ISSN (electronic): 1460-6984

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1460-6984.12138


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