Language difficulties and criminal justice: the need for earlier identification
International journal of language and communication disorders
At least 60% of young people in the UK who are accessing youth justice services present with speech, language and communication difficulties which are largely unrecognised. The contributing reasons for this are discussed suggesting that early language difficulty is a risk factor for other problems such as literacy difficulties and educational failure that may increasingly put the young person at risk of offending. Opportunities for identification and remediation of language difficulties before
... ifficulties before young people reach youth justice services are also outlined. Aims: To examine language skills in a sample of children in a secure children's home aged 11 to 17 years. Methodology: A sample of 118 males were routinely assessed on four CELF subtests and the BPVS. Results: Around 30% of the participants presented with language difficulties scoring 1.5SD below the mean on the assessments. Despite them entering the home because their vulnerability was recognised; only two participants had a previous record of language difficulties. 20% of the participants had a diagnosis of mental illness, 50% had a history of drug abuse and 31% had looked-after status prior to entry to the home. Conclusions and implications: Children who are experiencing educational or emotional difficulties need to be routinely assessed for speech, language and communication difficulties. More population based approaches to supporting the development of oral language skills in children and young people are also supported. 2 What is already known on the subject? A significant number of young people in contact with youth justice services have speech, language and communication difficulties. Language difficulties may be a risk factor for offending. What this paper adds? This paper reviews the compounding risks that early language difficulties may lead to considering social and behavioural factors that link to language development in adolescence. The study provides language data on children who are in a secure children's home within the youth justice system. This population has not been studied before. The findings suggest that language difficulties are rarely recognised despite these young people being recognised as vulnerable. Given re-offending rates and the high costs of residential placement, further research is needed into the economic benefits of supporting language development in vulnerable populations.