Cost analysis of direct versus indirect and individual versus group modes of manual-based speech-and-language therapy for primary school-age children with primary language impairment

Kirstin Dickson, Marjorie Marshall, James Boyle, E. McCartney, A. O'Hare, J. Forbes

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The study is the first within trial cost analysis of direct versus indirect and individual versus group modes of speech-and-language therapy for children with primary language impairment. Aims: To compare the short-run resource consequences of the four interventions alongside the effects achieved measured by standardized scores on a test of expressive and receptive language. Methods Procedures: The study design was a cost analysis integrated within a randomized controlled trial using a 22 factorial design (direct/indirect versus individual/group therapy) together with a control group that received usual levels of community-based speech-and-language therapy. Research interventions were delivered in school settings in Scotland, UK. Children aged between 6 and 11 years, attending a mainstream school, with standard scores on the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-IIIUK) of less than -1.25 standard deviation (SD) (receptive and/or expressive) and non-verbal IQ on the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) above 75, and no reported hearing loss, no moderate/severe articulation/phonology/dysfluency problems or otherwise requiring individual work with a speech-and-language therapist. The intervention involved speech-and-language therapists and speech-and-language therapy assistants working with individual children or small groups of children. A therapy manual was constructed to assist the choice of procedures and activities for intervention. The cost analysis focused on the salary and travel costs associated with each mode of intervention. The cumulative distribution of total costs arising from the time of randomization to post-intervention assessment was estimated. Arithmetic mean costs were compared and reported with their 95% confidence intervals. Outcomes Results: The results of the intention-to-treat analysis revealed that there were no significant post-intervention differences between direct and indirect modes of therapy, or between individual and group modes on any of the primary language outcome measures. The cost analysis identified indirect therapy, particularly indirect group therapy, as the least costly of the intervention modes with direct individual therapy as the most costly option. The programme cost of providing therapy in practice over 30 weeks for children could represent between 30% and 75% of the total gross revenue spend in primary school per pupil, depending on the choice of assistant led group therapy or therapist-led individual therapy. Conclusions Implications: This study suggests that speech-and-language therapy assistants can act as effective surrogates for speech-and-language therapists in delivering cost-effective services to children with primary language impairment. The resource gains from adopting a group-based approach may ensure that effective therapy is provided to more children in a more efficient way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-381
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • speech therapy
  • language therapy
  • primary language impairment
  • manual therapy
  • cost
  • cost-effectiveness
  • economics
  • economic evaluation

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