Explanation of search terms

A description of each of the search terms is given below. You can also read an explanation of the levels of evidence

Target group

These have been kept as generic as possible at this stage to allow the reader to draw comparisons between programmes and approaches in the same category. As we know, many children will fall into more than one of the categories below and this should be taken into account when searching for programmes:

  • Speech: Children who have difficulties with speech sound development, regardless of cause. This could include difficulties with being able to make different speech sounds and / or using them in the right places in words. It would also include children who struggle to accurately listen and process speech sounds. Children with these difficulties may have a range of different "diagnoses", but could be described as having phonological delay or disorder, articulation difficulties or verbal dyspraxia. It may also include children with phonological awareness needs. The Speech category also includes children who have a stammer, so those children who have difficulties maintaining fluent speech.
  • Language: This includes both understanding of language and talking, sometimes referred to as receptive and expressive language. It will include children who have difficulties with any aspect of language, including children who struggle with one or more of the following; processing and understanding what people say; vocabulary; word finding; building sentences using appropriate grammar; syntax and morphology, talking and understanding using narratives or longer interactions and conversations.
  • Communication: This is about the way in which language is used to interact socially with others; so children who have difficulties knowing how to use language to interact with others in a variety of ways, children who struggle with the non-verbal rules of communication such as knowing how to take turns in a conversation, using appropriate eye contact, etc.
Age range

Programmes, approaches and techniques may be used across different age groups but here we've identified the age range which the authors have specified for their interventions.

NB: Some interventions may be useful for children outside of these age groups, for example some children and young people with learning disabilities may be able to access and benefit from an intervention designed for younger children. There are caveats to take into account, for example, that materials may be designed for younger children and will therefore not be suitable for older children with learning disabilities. 

Also the original research and therefore evidence may well specify a particular age group or language impairment and therefore the evidence may not apply to older children with more general learning needs.

Focus of intervention
  • Universal (tier 1) is generic and applied to all children
  • Targeted (tier 2) is for specific sub-groups of children who have been identified as being in need and who it's anticipated will respond to the intervention highlighted
  • Specialist (tier 3) is reserved for children whose speech, language or communication need (SLCN) has persisted despite earlier intervention and support or who need specialist approaches to their SLCN. "Waves" 1, 2, and 3 are similar terms also used across health and education sectors

It should be recognised that those developing the interventions don't necessarily describe their programmes in these terms and the reader is left to infer aspects of the method of service delivery, for example whether it's a tier 2 or tier 3 intervention. Similarly a programme may have been developed to use by specialist educators but there's no reason why it could not be used by well supported teachers in mainstream classes.

It's also the case that an intervention developed for use with pre-school children just starting to speak could equally be used with much older children at a similar language level, perhaps with general developmental difficulties. For head teachers looking to commission services, guidance from specialists, such as speech and language therapists, would be useful to determine which approaches or combination of approaches would best suit the needs of their pupils.

Delivered by

This can vary on each intervention as to how the supplier of the intervention defines certain positions but the terms do give general guidance.

'Specialist' in this context could mean a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT), a Specialist Teacher or Advisory Teacher, and Educational Psychologist or other specialist. Where an intervention must be delivered by an SLT, this is explicitly stated in the information about the intervention.

For more information on the role of SLTs in schools, please see Key principles to consider before using an intervention.

  • Manual refers to a publication which is published and accessible that gives details on the intervention. Computer programmes have been included in this category where appropriate
  • Approach refers to an intervention which is described in the literature but has no manual available
  • Technique refers to a specific technique which could be part of a wider intervention or the focus of the intervention itself
Evidence Rating

An intervention's level of evidence is the extent to which there is data available to support a specific intervention. Such data needs to be publicly available in the published literature or on websites. There are three levels:

  • Strong - this includes at least one positive systematic review plus subsequent trials as available
  • Moderate - this would include single randomised controlled studies or quasi-experimental studies
  • Indicative - this means good face validity but limited research evidence i.e. case studies or 'before and after' studies

Click here for detailed explanation of the levels of evidence


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