Objectives: The paper presents a research study investigating the effectiveness and acceptability of community speech and language therapy provision for preschool children with early speech/language delays. As a 'worked example', it demonstrates the value of a multimethod approach to evaluation.
Methods: The paper examines how the research findings of a pragmatic randomized controlled trial (RCT), a survey questionnaire and qualitative in-depth interviews, which were the methods used in the evaluation, overlap and complement each other.
Results: There was little evidence to establish the effectiveness of the speech and language therapy provided in the trial. This lack of difference was reflected in responses of parents to items on the questionnaire. The findings of the RCT, questionnaire and interviews all cast considerable doubt on the prospect of spontaneous resolution of the children's difficulties. Although the RCT showed few differences between the children allocated to immediate therapy or 'watchful waiting', the questionnaire and interviews revealed the circumstances in which the parents felt that these intervention strategies had been acceptable and unacceptable.
Conclusions: Although the trial provided information about the progress of the children, the questionnaire and interview components highlighted the advantages and limitations of the intervention from the viewpoint of parents, thereby helping to explain the RCT findings. Thus, the study demonstrates how a multimethod approach to evaluation can yield useful information to explain the findings of RCTs.