GUEST BLOG- Dr Elspeth McCartney, CATALISE: Identifying children with language disorder, and developing effective interventions


Developmental language disorder (DLD) is amongst the most commonly identified childhood disorders, affecting children’s social functioning and educational progress. International classification systems (WHO ICD 10/11 and DSM 5) list slightly different classification criteria, and there are differences in terminology between health and education services.

CATALISE is a multi-disciplinary, multi-national consortium of around 60 experts in education, paediatrics psychiatry, psychology and speech and language therapy (SLT) who undertook an online Delphi consensus-building collaboration. The first round, CATALISE 1, concentrated on identifying children who might benefit from specialist services (Bishop et al. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0168066.s002). Of all the papers published by Strathclyde authors in 2016, CATALISE 1 ranked in the top 50 based on the number of mentions in online sources, and in the top 5% of all research papers scored by Altmetric.

The second Delphi round, CATALISE 2, concentrates on terminology, and has just been accepted for a special issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry to be published in September, 2017. The Early view is at JCCP

The School of Psychological Sciences and Health’s distinctive contribution to the project was based on two major research programmes – Kevin Durkin’s work (with Conti-Ramsden and others) tracking a cohort of children with a history of DLD through school and beyond, contributing information on language trajectories and outcomes, and a series of controlled language intervention trials by James Boyle and Elspeth McCartney which suggested that non-verbal IQ did not predict responsiveness to language intervention, and provided an efficacious language therapy. These programmes provided theoretical and empirical data relevant to the CATALISE questions of who might benefit from service, and terminology.

The language intervention trials created the Strathclyde Language Intervention Programme (SLIP), a manualised language intervention for primary-school age children with DLD developed by Elspeth McCartney with SLT research assistants, which proved effective when delivered individually or in small groups by SLTs or SLT assistants in school settings, and a language Support Model for Teachers, which helps classroom teachers organise and support this intervention. SLIP is described in Ch. 15 (pps. 451-486) of McCauley, Fey & Gillam (2016) Treatment of language disorders in children (2nd edition), Baltimore: Paul Brookes ISBN 978-1-59857-979-6 and the materials appear on the Strathclyde website (;