BEST: Innovative technique to facilitate language development in children

A Newcastle University expert has won a prestigious award for her work to help young children with language difficulties.
Dr Cristina McKean and Drs Sean Pert and Carol Stow, who both work for Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, have been presented with the Sternberg Prize for clinical Innovation from the Royal Society of Speech and Language Therapists.

The trio have developed a technique called BEST (Building Early Sentences Therapy) which they have been using with aged between three and six for the past two years. BEST can be used to help children who speak – something not all other techniques have been designed to do.

Dr McKean, a lecturer in the School of Education, Communication and Sciences at Newcastle University, said: "I was really delighted when I heard we had won the award. We've worked very hard to develop BEST and as we all studied for our PhDs in speech and language at Newcastle, it's really nice to for us to have our work recognised in this way.

"The way BEST works is that it supports children to listen to adult speech and to figure out how sentences are constructed from the language that they hear  – this is the way most children learn to speak if their Language develops normally.

"We focus on the language the child hears and because we do it this way, it means BEST can also be used when children speak another language too. Other methods designed to help young children are developed to work in one particular language so they can't always be used to help a child who speaks another."

The therapy has been used with children in the Rochdale area, where there is a large Asian community and where many children speak a Pakistani heritage language such as Mirpuri, Punjabi or Urdu at home.

The typically have 16 sessions where they hear adult therapists saying particular sentences and acting them out with toys. The adults then change one or more elements of the sentence so the child can learn how to use a different but similar sentence to describe something else. In this way, the children learn the rules about how to combine words into a range of different sentences.

Targeting language impairment in pre-school children is vital as research has shown that those children who start school with language difficulties are likely to have difficulties with literacy skills and learning in school.  These difficulties can then lead to problems with employment and mental health in adulthood.  

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Motherese' important for children's language development

May 06, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Talking to children has always been fundamental to language development, but new research reveals that the way we talk to children is key to building their ability to understand and create ...

Two-year-old children understand complex grammar

Aug 23, 2011

Psychologists at the University of Liverpool have found that children as young as two years old have an understanding of complex grammar even before they have learned to speak in full sentences.

Recommended for you

Meaningful relationships can help you thrive

17 minutes ago

Deep and meaningful relationships play a vital role in overall well-being. Past research has shown that individuals with supportive and rewarding relationships have better mental health, higher levels of subjective well-being ...

Learning to read involves tricking the brain

57 minutes ago

While reading, children and adults alike must avoid confusing mirror-image letters (like b/d or p/q). Why is it difficult to differentiate these letters? When learning to read, our brain must be able to inhibit ...

Smartphone beats paper for some with dyslexia

1 hour ago

Matthew Schneps is a researcher at Harvard University with a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He also happens to have dyslexia, so reading has always been a challenge for him. That ...

High dietary salt may worsen multiple sclerosis symptoms

13 hours ago

High dietary salt intake may worsen multiple sclerosis symptoms and boost the risk of further neurological deterioration, indicates a small observational study published online in the Journal of Neurology, Ne ...

Inside the teenage brain: New studies explain risky behavior

21 hours ago

It's common knowledge that teenage boys seem predisposed to risky behaviors. Now, a series of new studies is shedding light on specific brain mechanisms that help to explain what might be going on inside juvenile male brains.

User comments