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Reducing waiting times for children with speech difficulties


Age Range
  • Special Educational Needs

Speech difficulties are easy to identify right?

How Derby City reduced waiting times for children with speech difficulties by introducing Speech Link

Speech difficulties are easy to identify right?  Well, in reality when a child’s speech is a bit unclear schools can find it hard to know if this is appropriate, delayed or disordered.  Speech Link was developed by our team of expert Speech and Language Therapists to help schools decide which children needed to see a therapist and which children just needed a simple school-based programme.  When Derby City wanted to look at reducing numbers of inappropriate referrals to their over loaded Speech Therapy services, they decided to use Speech Link.  Here’s how they got on.


Within Derby City, referrals for school aged children with speech sound difficulties to speech therapy services showed a wide amount of variation.  Many children failed to meet the criteria and schools were left unsure of what to do next. In 2006 the local authority purchased Speech Link for 25 schools across Derby City.


The LEA and SLT team overseeing the project set themselves 3 key objectives:

  • Ensure only the children who needed therapy were referred
  • Reduce time spent screening the referrals
  • Raise confidence levels in school to support children with delayed speech development


There were extremely positive outcomes for both schools and therapy services.  126 children were identified by schools at the beginning of the project.  Previously the therapy service would have seen each child or had a telephone conversation with the school about the child.  The schools use of Speech Link dramatically reduced the number of referrals to the therapy service.  Of the 126 children identified by schools only 33 were discussed with the therapists.  Out of those children 17 were assessed and 12 of those went on to have regular speech therapy.  76 children were successfully managed in school through Speech Link programmes.

Other findings:

Therapist time was targeted to manage children with the most complex difficulties so waiting times for initial assessment for all children in the SLT service is reduced. •  No child in the 25 participating schools has an unidentified speech difficulty. •  School staff are empowered to identify speech difficulties and implement programmes appropriately. •

Teaching Assistants have developed additional skills and experience in identifying and supporting children with speech difficulties.


What did the teachers think about Speech Link?


Precise, quick identification of how best to support children.”

“Helps us determine the difference between delay and disorder.”

“Children are motivated by the resources.”

“We don’t have to wait for therapist to give us a programme.”


What Happened Next?

Following the project, Speech Link was rolled out to the rest of the schools cross Derby City and the therapists reported that it had promoted joint work between their services and school staff.

The Therapy services no longer needed to use telephone screening of referrals so waiting times for initial assessments were greatly reduced.

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