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Speech-language pathology and the youth justice system

Evidence is that adolescents in the youth justice system frequently have severely compromised oral language skills, receptively and expressively. Language, like literacy, underpins academic, social, and vocational success. That means that speech-language pathology intervention has a critical role to play in the lives of young people at risk. This was shown, on an epidemiological level, by a recent paper* on how complex communication needs function in the school-to-prison pipeline, and how this sad nexus can best be disrupted, at the community level and within the youth justice system.

What to do for young people in the system is the subject of another paper,** seeking to show empirically the efficacy of intervention in the youth justice setting. More precisely, as a series of four single case studies, it evaluates intensive, one-to-one language intervention.

Outcomes in this small trial were evaluated at baseline, and through intervention and maintenance phases, with Tau-U, a non-parametric distribution-free statistic, and with other, more subjective, measures. Results were positive, and statistically significant. For participants who could be followed up, gains in language skills were generally maintained at 1 month post-intervention.

The take-away is that one-to-one SLP intervention for adolescents in youth justice does work. More broadly, reasonable implications on the likelihood of recidivism with and without intervention ought to be expected. Should SLP be more actively pursued on an institutional level? That seems plain. As part of multidisciplinary interventions for young people in custody? Studies are few yet, but data like this certainly supports the idea.

*Snow PC. Speech-Language Pathology and the Youth Offender: Epidemiological Overview and Roadmap for Future Speech-Language Pathology Research and Scope of Practice. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch. 2019 Apr 23;50(2):324-339. doi: 10.1044/2018_LSHSS-CCJS-18-0027

**Swain NR, Eadie PA, Snow PC. Speech and language therapy for adolescents in youth justice: A series of empirical single-case studies. Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2020 Jul;55(4):458-479. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12529

MyoNews from BreatheWorksTM is a report on trends and developments in oromyofunctional disorder and therapy. These updates are not intended as diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease or syndrome.

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