Speech-language pathology and the youth offender: Epidemiological overview and roadmap for future speech-language pathology research and scope of practice Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose This article is concerned with the growing body of international evidence indicating that adolescents in contact with the youth justice system are likely to have severely compromised oral language skills, receptively and expressively. A smaller, but persuasive, literature also points to poor literacy skills in this population. Language and literacy skills underpin academic, social, and vocational success ( C. Snow, 1983 ; P. C. Snow, 2016 ; Snowling & Hulme, 2012 ) and are central to the professional expertise of speech-language pathology as a profession ( P. C. Snow, 2016 ). Method In this article, I review the epidemiology of youth offending together with research evidence concerning the language and literacy skills of this population. I outline the major practice and research implications of these findings for speech-language pathology as a profession, considering the "school-to-prison pipeline" via key domains of early years' reading instruction, young people's passage through the justice system, restorative justice processes, and design and delivery of language and literacy interventions for young people on youth justice orders. Results Implications for speech-language pathology scope of practice and future research are outlined. Conclusions Speech-language pathology as a profession has a significant role to play in advocating for vulnerable young people at each point in the school-to-prison pipeline. This includes strengthening the evidence base concerning speech-language pathology language and literacy interventions and lobbying governments to fund speech-language pathology services to address the complex communication needs of this population, both on community-based and custodial orders.

publication date

  • 2019