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Importance Of Speech Therapists

Media release 22 May 2008

Strong links found between poor communication skills and childhood offending

The governor of a Young Offender Institution (YOI) in the UK reported that if he had to get rid of all his staff, the SLT would be the last out of the gate. The governor regarded investment in speech as an, ‘essential component of an effective rehabilitation strategy’.

This was in response to a question posed by Lord Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector for Prisons in the United Kingdom. Referring to recent research conducted in the UK he raised debate in the House of Lords demanding SLTs in all YOIs: ``I have never found anything so capable of doing so much for so many people at so little cost as the work that SLTs carry out [in young offender units].’’

Oral language skills and competence in young offenders is the hot topic to be discussed at the joint New Zealand Australia Speech-Language Therapists’ conference ‘Reflecting Connections’ in Auckland this week.

The keynote speaker Dr Pamela Snow has current research which supports Professor Karen Bryan’s testing of young offenders in the UK which showed that half had substance-induced memory loss, 47% reported their talking was poor, 37% had literary problems, 30% had difficulty in speaking with others, 23% scored less than an 11-year old in comprehension tests, 20% had definite learning difficulties and 17% had hearing difficulties.

``New Zealand needs to do more to recognize the impact that poor language skills has on children’s behaviour and their ability to function in our society’’ says Stella Ward, President of the New Zealand Speech Therapists Association. We need to ask the question ‘Could we reduce young offending by ensuring they receive specialist and timely therapy to improve their communication skills?’

Visit the New Zealand Speech-Language Therapists Association new website: www.speechtherapy.org.nz designed to support the public and the profession in issues related to speech and language therapy in New Zealand.



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