Evaluation of a manualised speech and language therapy programme for children with social communication disorder: the SCIP feasibility study

Catherine Adams, Jacqueline Gaile, Hazel Roddam, Janet Baxendale, Laura Clitheroe, Richard Emsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Children with Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder (SPCD) have long-term needs in using and processing social language and have a high risk of later mental health difficulties. A manualised speech and language therapy programme, the Social Communication Intervention Programme (SCIP) provides therapy content for SPCD. A feasibility study is required to derive more precise estimates of key parameters for a future trial of SCIP.

Aims: To assess the feasibility of conducting a substantive randomized controlled trial of SCIP for children with SPCD.

Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to paediatric speech and language therapists in England. Survey questions addressed number of eligible children, routine intervention provision and trial recruitment factors. In the second phase, a single-arm intervention feasibility study was completed. Fifteen speech and language practitioners identified 24 children aged 5-11 years with SPCD. Practitioners received training/supervision to deliver 20 SCIP therapy sessions to each child. At time 1, parents of participating children provided three communication goals; expected steps in each goal were defined. After intervention, parents and practitioners independently rated each goal compared to baseline ability. Two research practitioners compared parent post-intervention commentaries with outcome scores to derive guidance about clinical significance. All practitioners recorded audio commentaries on therapy experiences. Post-intervention interviews were conducted with 6 practitioners and 6 parents. An expert panel completed a Delphi consultation on trial design.

Results: Routine practice for SPCD varies widely. Children tend to be embedded in autism provision. Participation in a future trial was well supported provided resources are available to services. Outcomes analysis indicated all children except one made some progress on parent ratings; all children made progress on practitioner ratings. A power analysis for a future trial was carried out using current outcome measure as putative primary endpoint. Practitioners' audio-diaries provided suggestions for training and adaption in a future trial. Outcomes and therapy methods were acceptable to practitioners and parents.

Conclusions: The feasibility study evaluated a novel outcome measure of social communication skills in SPCD. A power calculation indicated a feasible framework for a trial within a realistic period of time. Recommendations for recruitment methods, adaptation of manual and training were supported by practitioners and an expert panel.

Trial registration: Title: Speech-language therapy for child social communication disorderTrial ID: ISRCTN48030419. Date registered: January 1, 2017. Registered retrospectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
Early online date22 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


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