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Addressing language and mental health issues in the youth justice system

First published on HealthTimes – March 9th, 2018



peech pathologist Rosie Martin was recognised as the 2017 Tasmanian Australian of the Year for her pro-bono work in prisons in the fields of adult literacy, and parenting communication through the circle of trust method. Her work not only improved their ability to communicate and build relationships, changing the trajectory of their lives beyond detention, but also brought hope to their families’ lives.

Poor social communication skills, ability to recognise and respond to the communication of others, and difficulties managing emotions. In a report from the (UK) Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists last year, it was found that 60% of children in contact with youth justice services present with speech, language and communication difficulties – and recent Australian headlines have indicated previously unidentified high levels of incarcerated individuals with intellectual disability and/or traumatic brain injury, conditions which are regularly paired with communication impairment.

The role of speech pathologists in language and social development has, to date, been underrecognised by institutional bodies, despite the consensus that better communication skills can improve children’s lives. But Mary Woodward from Speech Pathology Australia has been touring the country on a mission to change that.