Intervening to address communication difficulties in incarcerated youth: A Phase 1 clinical trial
Purpose: Although a number of studies have described high rates of wide-ranging language difficulties in youth offender samples, minimal intervention research has been conducted with this population. The aim of this study was to implement a small-scale speech-language pathology (SLP) intervention study in a secure youth justice facility and to identify key practical challenges associated with conducting SLP interventions in youth custodial settings.
Method: Six young males were recruited and underwent assessment via a range of standardised and self-report communication measures. Measures of nonverbal IQ and of therapeutic engagement were also employed, and participants’ own goals concerning communication competence were incorporated into treatment. Participants completed seven to 16 weeks’ of 1:1 SLP intervention, once or twice per week.
Result: Therapeutic engagement was generally strong. All participants made gains and responded favourably regarding the usefulness of the intervention. Many practical issues conspired to make this a challenging SLP intervention setting.
Conclusion: Youth custodial sentences represent an important opportunity for high-risk youths with compromised communication skills to receive specialist SLP therapeutic services to reduce the impact of their communication difficulties post-release into the community.