Many young people in the youth justice system have speech, language and communication problems. To help them, we need to discover which ones have and which ones haven’t. That’s where “The Box” comes in…

The Box

Image ©RCSLT

This is a guest post by Dr. Aprilmay Kitchener of Siarad Da – supporting professionals to improve their understanding and skills to better manage people with challenging behaviour and social communication difficulties and disabilities.

“The Box” – help or hinderance?…

I recently attended The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) launch of THE BOX. This is marketed as a ‘screening tool‘ for Criminal Justice Service (CJS) professionals working with offenders with speech, language and communication difficulties (SLCD).

During the launch, presenters described how some clients who complete The Box with their CJS worker, may not need to be referred for specialist help. Because the problems highlighted by the The Box might not be sufficient to require this.

Instead, we were told, their needs might be suitably dealt with by the professional who conducted The Box with them. Not by a speech and language specialist (SLT), but by their YOT worker or probation officer.

I was not alone in my discomfort…

I’m a retired head teacher who has argued for the rights of vulnerable children and young people involved with the CJS. From my perspective, hearing such a statement raised concerns for both the professional and the client.

I understand the pressures and expectations placed on those working with this demanding population and the smallest mistake can spiral out of control.

CJS professionals face many demands.  Expecting them to make judgements as to whether a client has ‘severe enough difficulties’ to be referred to a speech and language therapist is outside their professional training and expertise – and has potential for serious consequences.

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How it should be…

Assessments and advice from registered SLTs are essential for:

  • Legal professionals
  • Presenting needs of clients
  • Informed decision-making at sentencing
  • Intervention planning
  • Assisting professionals responsible for the risk management of offenders

Only SLTs are sufficiently qualified and competent to provide such advice.

These concerns were made to the presenters at the launch event.  The response was that the courts respected judgments of CJS professionals. This is true.

However, the court reports that CJS professionals present are made up of assessments and advice from experts in their own fields e.g. psychologists, social workers, YOT/probation officers and SLTs.

If a client appears to have health difficulties an appropriately qualified medical professional is required to make an assessment.  The health difficulty could impact on their ability to be interviewed or attend court without specific support in place. This information would be fed into the pre-sentence or other relevant court report.

Principles matter…

When a client works through THE BOX with a CJS professional and results suggest SLCD, the same principle must apply.

SLTs are the appropriately qualified professionals to make the required assessment. No-one else. The presence of ANY difficulties indicated by The Box, must trigger a referral to an SLT.

Final thought…

Any tool that helps CJS professionals to support and manage clients is welcomed. To this degree The Box is a good thing.

But responsible professionals should beware the temptation to take on responsibilities they’re not qualified for.

If in doubt, make a referral to a speech and language therapist.

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What do you think?…

  • What do you think about screening tools – are they about getting advice on the cheap or a necessary and useful addition?

Please let me know your thoughts…   Leave a comment below or click here.

For more information:

  • Siarad Da – is the brain child of Dr Aprilmay Kitchener. The work of Siarad Da is focussed on supporting professionals to improve their understanding and skills to better manage people with challenging behaviour and social communication difficulties and
    Image ©Siarad Da

    Image ©Siarad Da

  • Click here for more information about The Box

Related previous posts:

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© Jonny Matthew 2014

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