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Early years settings across Ireland to take up Speech and Language UK’s Early Talk Boost programme

July 4, 2024

Following the Irish Government* recently committing to fund an early language programme in all designated Equal Start pre-schools, Speech and Language UK is pleased to announce that Early Talk Boost is being rolled out to participating early years settings across Ireland.

Early Talk Boost is a catch-up programme for children aged three to four years-old who are behind with talking and understanding words. It helps boost their language skills to narrow the gap between them and their peers.  Early years staff are trained by speech and language therapists to support children’s attention and listening, building sentences and having conversations.

An evaluation of Early Talk Boost in May 2024, by researchers from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, on behalf of Tusla, Ireland’s Child and Family Agency together with the Health Service Executive, found Early Talk Boost had a meaningful impact on children’s confidence and social and emotional development.

Parents also said their children had an increased interest in reading books and book sharing, with one parent saying:

 “The books? He slept with them. We had trouble giving them back. He wanted to keep them all!”

Jane Harris Speech and Language UK Chief Executive said:

“We are delighted to see Tusla and the HSE’s positive evaluation of Early Talk Boost and it being rolled out across Ireland. This will significantly help children struggling with talking and understanding words to develop speech, language and communication skills they can use for the rest of their lives.”

Speaking at the launch of the evaluation report, Kate Duggan, CEO, Tusla, said:

“With my professional background in speech and language therapy, I know all too well the issues that can affect children with delayed language development. The results of the Early Talk Boost programme are remarkable, and they demonstrate the importance of early intervention for children who might otherwise face long wait times for a speech and language therapy service. The programme and its results are a compelling example of what can be achieved through effective inter-agency working and partnership to tackle critical areas of need for children.”


Notes to editors:

For media enquiries, contact:

Simon Walsh, Speech and Language UK Press Manager via / 07824 446989.

  • *In May 2024, The Irish Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman launched Equal Start to ensure children experiencing disadvantage can access and meaningfully participate in early learning and childcare.
  • In 2023, Ireland’s Tusla – Child and Family agency- National Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme increased its evidence-based community-based language support across several new areas, engaging clusters of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) settings and Primary Care Speech and Language therapists (SLTs) in the delivery of Speech and Language UK’s Early Talk Boost (ETB) programme. ETB was first implemented in settings in Limerick and Ballyfermot and has since been expanded to wider areas covered by the ABC programme, including Bray, Louth, Tallaght, Clondalkin, Finglas and Darndale, Westmeath, Wicklow, Mayo, Galway city and county, Dublin North, Dublin South, North Tipperary, Limerick County, Laois, and Offaly.
  • Speech and Language UK’s own pilot of Early Talk Boost showed children make significant progress in talking and understanding words when using Early Talk Boost. (Reeves, L., Hartshorne, M., Black, R., Atkinson, J., Baxter, A., & Pring, T. (2018). Early talk boost: A targeted intervention for three year old children with delayed language development. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 34(1), 53-62.

What is Early Talk Boost?

Early Talk Boost is a targeted programme aimed at 3-4 year old children who need help with talking and understanding words, helping to boost their language skills to narrow the gap between them and their peers. The programme aims to accelerate children’s progress in language and communication by an average of 6 months after 9 weeks.

Who are Speech and Language UK?

For at least 1.9 million children in the UK, learning to talk and understand words feels like an impossible hurdle. We work to give every child the skills they need to face the future with confidence.  We design innovative tools and training for thousands of nursery assistants and teachers to use in their classrooms.  We give families the confidence and skills to help their children. And we put pressure on politicians to prioritise help for speech and language challenges.

For further information visit or follow @SpeechAndLangUK.