Reading together encourages peer modelling and a love of books for children who are slower to develop language skills.

A book club for kids with speech delays

A Vancouver group-based language therapy approach that can cut costs and wait times may also rival one-to-one therapy for effectiveness. The unique group approach — called Language Fun Story Time (LFST) — uses the power of books and peer modelling for children who are slower to develop language.

Working with local librarians, VCH speech-language pathologists have been running the group program for the past eight years. LFST gets rave reviews from participating families, and therapists have observed that improvements in language skills among children in the group sessions seem to match those made in the one-to-one sessions typically offered.

“This is a unique program, developed here in Vancouver. We’d love to teach other people — in other health regions — how to implement it. But we need the data to back us up,” explains Natasha Orgyzlo, a researcher with Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

The study hypothesis goes against what people might assume: that one-to-one focused therapy must be better for a child than possibly getting distracted or getting less attention in a group of active preschoolers.

“Actually, what we often find is that one-to-one sessions can be overwhelming for a young child,” explains Orgyzlo. “Having five or six other kids around to take the focus off them lets them participate more. It gives an opportunity for peer models and we know that kids learn from peers.”

The study will measure and compare language gains for kids in individual therapy and kids in the LFST program. The study findings could mean significant cost and wait time reductions if therapy can be proven as effective, since it can be given to eight kids at a time, instead of one. The comparison study will be completed by the end of the year.

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