Research conducted by Sally Kedge and Dr Clare McCann from Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ and The University of Auckland has produced the report ‘Language and communication skills among young people at a youth justice residence’. The researchers worked with 23 young people at Kingslea’s youth justice campus Te Maioha o Parekarangi in Rotorua.
There has been very little research in New Zealand that has explored the language skills of young people who have offended. Yet, language difficulties might be one of a number of complex neurodevelopmental challenges that young people might be dealing with. International research and one other New Zealand study have established high levels of language difficulties experienced by young people involved in the justice system, and similar findings emerged from this research with Kingslea students.
The 23 young people involved in this research completed tasks that provided information on the language and communication skills of talking, listening and understanding. They also talked about their experiences of communicating in court, police interviews and family group conferences.
Of the 23 young people, 21 completed the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Fourth Edition (CELF-4). The speech-language therapists used the information from these tests to work out their Core Language Scores.
Our students were distributed as follows:
The speech-language therapists found that if they combined the mild, moderate and severe impairment groups, 17/21 (81%) could be described as having a language impairment. 10/21 (48%) could be described as having a moderate to severe language impairment.
As difficulties with language can impact on learning, literacy, behaviour, social and emotional development and can impact on young people’s participation in talk-based interventions designed to help them, this information has important implications for professionals working with children and young people.