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Speech and Language Therapy - Disparity Between Research and Practice

Publication Date: 14 June 2023
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Speech and language therapy services for people with Down syndrome: The disparity between research and practice

Pauline FrizelleAnna CeroniLorna BatemanNicola Hart
First published: 16 December 2021
Citations: 1

The need for speech and language therapy (SLT) for people with Down syndrome (DS) is well documented. However, there is a significant disparity between research and practice. This study addresses two of the three pillars of evidence-based practice by:

  1. Aquantitatively profiling some key features of the 2019 public SLT service in Ireland, and referencing this against current best evidence;
  2. Asking parents, and adults with DS what supports they need in relation to an adequate SLT service.

Adults with DS (n = 33) and parents of those with DS (n = 557), completed an anonymous survey online. The function of the survey was to collect information on: SLT service provision; levels of satisfaction with services; and SLT supports required. Based on parent responses, only 44% of participants (n = 253) were offered public SLT services in 2019. The mode waiting time was 1–2 years and the average number of sessions across the age groups was 5 per year. There was a strong association between age and number of sessions. Individual therapy was the most common model of service. A total of 40% of parents reported a 0 level of satisfaction. Seven key themes emerged from the qualitative support data. None of the participating adults received public SLT services in 2019. Our aspiration for evidence-based SLT practice is far from being realized. The average number of sessions reported, does not in any way approximate the intervention intensity specified in evidence-based interventions. Our limited service, at all ages, has detrimental implications for people with DS and our negligible adult service is in breach of human rights. Targeted, strategic investment is needed to allow practice to be aligned with best evidence; to support and treat people with DS effectively; to allow them to reach their maximum potential; and to exercise their right to communicate.

Our Mission

To create a centre dedicated to providing support and services to families and carers of people with Down syndrome; helping them to reach their full potential and creating a brighter future.

The Down Syndrome Centre is compliant with all regulatory requirements for care of children, clinical practice, teaching and governance. 

Memberships include: Down Syndrome International, the Wheel and the Charities Institute Ireland, from whom we have Triple-Lock status for fundraising, governance and financial management. 

We are registered with the Charities Regulator to whom we submit our annual report.

Charity Number: 20055158 
CHY: 15750
Sandyford Centre
Unit 3, 82 Furze Road,
Sandyford, Dublin 18 
D18 DP49
Swords Centre
Willowbrook House,
Balheary Road, Swords, Dublin 
K67 R8C6
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