At Words First we believe that all interventions should be grounded in quality research. Words First have invested in a ‘research team’ whose responsibility is to design and implement robust action-based research around the approaches that we use. Our partnership with Coventry University has resulted in an Honorary Fellowship for Dr Kat Mumford and a strong link to the University’s research and ethics committee so that we can gain ethics approval through a highly regarded institution. We have a strong team of therapists who are interested in linking research and practice.

The research team

The research team are all speech and language therapists who have a specific interest in linking  research with practise.

Dr Kat Mumford

Is head of the research team at Words First Ltd. She has a PhD in psychology and an MSc in speech and language therapy and is currently working in our primary schools. Dr Kat was awarded an Honorary Fellowship with Coventry University and is responsible for maintaining our journal club, researching new intervention approaches and conducting research in Words First Ltd.

Dr Anna-Mari Kruger

Dr Anna-Mari was awarded a D. Litt for her contribution to education in South Africa. Dr Anna-Mari works on our resources and has a specific interest in linking research, parents, teachers and SaLTs through unique, creative and user-friendly resources.

Mary Thompson

Mary is a speech and language therapist working in our primary team. Mary has a specific interest in dyslexia and how we can integrate research into practice for children who struggle with literacy. Mary is currently completing her Post Graduate Certificate in Language and Literacy through Birmingham University and will be leading our Dyslexia team from September 2017.

Amanda Davis

Amanda is completing her PhD in Education in processing speed difficulties related to reading comprehension. Amanda believes very strongly in linking research with practice in all we do at Words First Ltd.

Current projects

Words First has completed a short piece of work into the incidence of processing speed difficulties in students in Year 7 at Harris Academy Beckenham. Our therapists screened 100 Year 7 students who were selected at random. We found that 4.7% of these students presented with significant processing speed difficulties that were likely to have a major impact on their attainment. We also found that 17% of these students presented with mild-moderate processing speed difficulties that were likely to contribute to academic difficulties. We have just completed an intervention stage of this project and found that our unique programme, Engagement with Language, was successful at improving students’ standard scores on processing speed tasks as well as their vocabulary and flexibility of word meanings. The EWL program is the subject of Amanda’s PhD.

Engagement with Language is a 10 week intervention for children with processing speed, receptive and expressive language and reading comprehension difficulties. The programme was delivered to 4 children at one mainstream Secondary school in London and was found to have positive results. The project was not robust enough to publish but is a useful pilot study and will form the foundation of Amanda’s PhD in processing speed and reading comprehension.


The Every Word Counts initiative aims to work with parents and carers of ALL children to PREVENT communication difficulties. We have been granted ethics approval through Coventry University and Dr Kat Mumford will be undertaking this piece of research with Emma Ryall who is delivering the interventions to parents in South London.

We are partnering with 3 of our secondary schools to measure the impact of SaLT on the curriculum. In collaboration with teachers and SENCOs from our schools, we will be creating strands for SaLT that can be used to measure impact by staff. This piece of work will be groundbreaking in the field of speech and language therapy and we are excited about the possible implications for schools, SaLT and most important, students! As of May 2017, we are conducting background research and will submit to ethics in July 2017.

Background to the Words First Approach™

The Words First Approach™ in schools is based on the seminal work of Professor Maryanne Wolf and Amanda Davis’s work into the naming speed deficits of children with dyslexia. Wolf and Bowers (1999) introduced a reconceptualization of the underlying deficits in children with literacy difficulties suggesting a new theory that separated phonological awareness and processing speed.

The phonological deficit hypothesis had become highly regarded by researchers as the single unitary cause of literacy difficulties / dyslexia in children. However, Wolf and Bowers (1999) discovered that for some children, their phonological system was in tact yet they had persistent literacy difficulties.

This brought into question the phonological deficit hypothesis as the single cause of dyslexia. These researchers identified that some children with dyslexia were slower at naming tasks and that this task was linked to a child’s ability to understand what he / she read – independent of their phonological ability.

The distribution was found to be
  • Double Deficit
  • Naming Speed Deficit
  • Phonological Deficit
  • Other Reading Impaired

In Amanda Davis’ own research (Cresswell, 2005), she identified that children experiencing literacy difficulties could indeed be grouped into ‘subtypes’ according to their ability to a) name letters at speed b) identify sounds in words.