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Language difficulties and criminal justice: the need for earlier identification

Language difficulties and criminal justice: the need for earlier identification

Bryan, Karen ORCID: 0000-0003-0742-1193, Garvani, Gillian, Gregory, Juliette and Kilner, Karen (2015) Language difficulties and criminal justice: the need for earlier identification. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 50 (6). pp. 763-775. ISSN 1368-2822 (Print), 1460-6984 (Online) (doi:

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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 unrecognized. 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 young people reach youth justice services are also outlined.

To examine language skills in a sample of children in a secure children's home aged 11–17 years.

Methods & Procedures:
A sample of 118 males were routinely assessed on four Comprehensive Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF) subtests and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale (BPVS).

Outcomes & Results:
Around 30% of the participants presented with language difficulties scoring 1.5 SD (standard deviation) below the mean on the assessments. Despite them entering the home because their vulnerability was recognized, only two participants had a previous record of language difficulties. A total of 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 & implications:
Children 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.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: language impairment, adolescents, speech and language therapy
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Vice-Chancellor's Group
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2019 10:55

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