A study revealing significant levels of language difficulty among detainees at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre underscores the need for more support for young people trying to navigate the justice system, Telethon Kids Institute researchers say.
The research, published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, found many of the teenagers assessed as part of the study had language skills well below that expected for their age, with almost half meeting the criteria for language disorder. Much of the language disorder was associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
The research also revealed that language diversity was common, with Standard Australian English not the first or even second language for many of the young people.
Lead researcher Natalie Kippin, a speech pathologist with the Alcohol and Pregnancy & FASD research team at Telethon Kids, said these communication barriers meant many young people were going through highly verbal legal and rehabilitation processes at a significant disadvantage.
“Effective two-way communication skills are needed at all points of the justice system – from contact with police through to court appearances and programs in detention,” Ms Kippin said.
“A young person with language disorder and/or FASD can find it hard to comprehend and communicate effectively. Similarly, language diversity – not a disorder, but simply a difference in language – can pose significant barriers to understanding youth justice processes.
“If you’ve got kids who don’t understand what’s being said – particularly the complex vocabulary and grammar used in legal interviews and meetings – it’s difficult for them to understand expectations and comply with instructions.”
Young people with language disorder could also be less able to provide accurate and coherent explanations about alleged events or criminal behaviour.
“Legal interviews require story re-telling, and recalling and sequencing detailed events can be tricky for those with language disorder,” Ms Kippin said. “These young people may also have trouble participating in and benefiting from youth justice education and behaviour change programs.”
The study is a follow-on from the broader Banksia Hill project, which earlier this year revealed that almost 90 per cent of the young people assessed for the project had at least one form of severe neurodevelopmental impairment.
Click here for full article.
The province is working to ensure all Albertans can benefit from the economic recovery by ensuring people with disabilities or low income Albertans have stable, predictable supports.
If passed, An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilitieswould index social benefits like Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) with inflation. It would also recognize increases to the cost of living by providing a one-time increase to AISH and Income Support.
“An economic recovery that doesn’t reach every kitchen table is no recovery at all. We are committed to helping make life better for all Albertans and this bill would make life more affordable for our most vulnerable citizens, and help ensure everyone has the chance to succeed and live with dignity.”
The legislation would mark the first increase to AISH benefits since 2012. In future years, benefit rates for financial assistance programs, including AISH, Learners Benefits and Barriers to Full Employment supports, would be connected to the Consumer Price Index.
“This legislation would provide greater protection and predictability for vulnerable Albertans who rely on these benefits. For too long, Albertans with disabilities have struggled to pay rent and put food on the table. This legislation would not only provide better supports today, but ensure people on AISH and low-income Albertans won’t need to fight to afford the basics tomorrow.”
Nearly 250,000 Albertans receive support through AISH, Income Support or Seniors Benefits. If passed, the legislation would make Alberta one of only four jurisdictions that indexes disability and income support benefits, and one of only two that indexes seniors benefits with inflation.
“I acquired my disability 14 years ago and a lot has changed in 14 years. This cost-of-living increase means the government recognizes the AISH program needs to change with the times. It will take away the desperation of managing my finances in the face of yearly inflation.”
To ensure Albertans with disabilities can plan for the future without eroding their savings, the legislation would also increase savings limits to match general eligibility criteria for the AISH child allowance ($100,000 instead of $3,000), and the AISH supplementary personal benefits from $3,000 to $5,000.
“We are pleased with the government’s decision to increase AISH and the income programs and, most importantly, to index them. Poverty isn’t just about money, but it is always about money. These actions will make a big difference in the lives of our most vulnerable Albertans.”
The legislation comes after government’s ongoing discussions between the disability and poverty reduction communities.
“Indexing these vital programs will reach individuals and families that are in the greatest need and will enhance Alberta’s continuing initiatives to prevent poverty. End Poverty Edmonton has advocated for these changes and we would like to applaud this government for working to ensure all Albertans can afford their daily costs into the future.”
“An increase to social assistance benefits will give women the ability to independently meet their most basic needs. Organizations like YW Calgary can offer programs to support women and their families with counselling or housing or employment supports, but if they can’t buy toothpaste or choose their own food, they can’t really move forward. These long overdue increases to benefits will have a direct impact on women’s lives and enable them to think about their futures and how they can contribute to community.”
“We believe that without adequate income people can’t get by, and without assets people can’t get ahead. By indexing critical benefits to the cost of living and raising the liquid asset limits for Albertans to access Income Support, the provincial government will reduce the financial stress for thousands of Albertans and create the opportunity for these individuals and families to exit the income support system when possible and move forward in their lives.”
The legislation is a key component of Alberta’s Action on Poverty plan, which includes actions across government to make life more affordable, support wellness and social inclusion, enhance skills and employment opportunities and invest in affordable housing and homeless supports.
- If passed, the legislation would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
- Quebec, Yukon and Manitoba index disability and income support benefit rates with inflation.
- Yukon is the only other Canadian jurisdiction that indexes their seniors’ benefits with inflation.
- If passed, the government will invest approximately $46 million in 2018-19 and $194 million in 2019-20 to support the legislation.
Did you miss our Network meetings yesterday? No worries, check out the meeting minutes here!
At CanFASD, we have been working to create a common definition of FASD for use in a Canadian context.
We believe that if all governments, service agencies, and researchers use a common definition of FASD, it will:
- Reduce stigma, given that many existing definitions are quite harsh and use incorrect or outdated information
- Increase understanding of the disability
- Increase consistency in our messaging
- Reduce confusion
When talking about FASD, we recommend that individuals avoid:
- Referring to FASD as something that is “caused by” or is “the result of” a mother consuming alcohol while pregnant, as this can inadvertently place blame
- Fatalistic terminology and phrasing (e.g., “with no cure”, “devastation”, “preventable”, and “average life expectancy”)
- Outdated terms, like “mental deficiency” and “mental retardation”
- In line with our language guide, avoid the terms primary and secondary disabilities
Our draft definition has received feedback from our CanFASD staff, our team of Research Leads, as well as the Canadian Northwest FASD Partnership. However, we would also like to receive feedback from you, our blog followers, about our definition.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
FASD is a lifelong disability. Individuals with FASD may experience challenges in their daily living, and need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, emotional regulation, and social skills.
Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges.
Please send any feedback to Dr. Kelly Coons-Harding at email@example.com.
Awareness of FASD is on the rise, but many parents and health professionals are yet to recognise the symptoms of the disorder, or the scale of the problem. Children from all backgrounds are affected, making this a hidden epidemic behind many behavioural and learning issues.
In July this year the Australian Psychological Society (APS) hosted a public lecture presented by Clinical Neuropsychologist Associate Professor Carmela Pestell. She addressed the top 20 myths related to FASD, with the main themes being prevalent diagnostic issues, information about drinking guidelines, why drinking is particularly harmful to the developing fetus, how we diagnose FASD, the symptoms of FASD and what we can do about it.
Understanding feelings and emotions is vital to good communication, but both are very abstract concepts. A child or youth with FASD may need concrete methods to help recognize what she is feeling. Therefore, teach emotions in a concrete way (e.g., smiling means happy.)
■ A “check-in” time for internal feelings will help in stating which feelings are physical and concrete.
■ After an outburst, talk about what your child felt during the meltdown; for example, a beating heart, sweaty hands, hot face. Attach the concrete feeling to the meltdown so she can begin to identify what feelings are connected to certain behaviours.
■ In order to be able to act appropriately to any emotion, your child must first have some way to recognize concretely what she is feeling. That feeling must then be named and “rules” for appropriate reaction to that feeling must be made.
■ Create a “feelings” dictionary, using line-drawings of complete stick men rather than just facial expressions for those most common feelings the child is likely to experience. A complete body can show more than just a face and is much easier for the child to associate with what he is feeling. Have one emotion per page.
■ Always name emotions very clearly. With teens and adults, name the emotion first and then follow with the words their friend’s use (“angry” vs. “pissed off”).
■ To encourage emotional expression, use a gingerbread man outline drawing and simple colour codes (e.g.,red for anger, blue for sad, yellow for happy, and gray for blank). Have your child colour on the gingerbread man where he has those feelings. This can give you a quick and immediate idea of the state of emotional health (e.g., red in the head and the hands is a good indicator of being ready to “lose it”; gray in the head and on the body is a good indication of being “shut down”). This will help, especially when the child is not able to verbalize her thoughts and feelings.
. ■ Once the feeling is identified correctly, have a simple plan to help the child. For instance: • “Losing it” – use calm down technique • Caregiver is “ticked off” – stand still, look at caregiver and listen • “Tired” – lie down and rest • “Frustrated” – have a list of physical activities that she can do and have her choose between two • “Angry” – express it physically in a previously identified acceptable and safe manner