Language and literacy needs of vulnerable young people

This research program currently consists of two separate studies that seek to provide profiles of the language and literacy skills of vulnerable adolescents in:

  • alternative/flexible education settings
  • the state out-of-home care system.

These populations are of particular interest as:

  • Students in alternative education settings are vulnerable to long-term educational and vocational marginalisation. Many students with emotional and behavioural difficulties have significant, yet unidentified language problems and subsequent difficulty with literacy and overall academic performance.
  • Children and adolescents in out-of-home care who have experienced trauma from abuse and/or neglect have poor outcomes in all life domains in adulthood. Previous studies suggest that language and literacy difficulties may be over-represented in this population, though data are scarce.

In many cases young people are part of both groups, and some are in what has been termed the “school-to-prison pipeline”, meaning that they also are in contact with Youth Justice services. Professor Snow has led two decades of research on the language and literacy skills of young people on both community and custodial Youth Justice orders.

The results from these two studies will form the basis of subsequent feasibility studies to determine the extent to which intensive (Tier 3) speech-language pathology interventions in alternative education settings and/or the state care system can improve the language and literacy skills of educationally at-risk adolescents.

The findings from this program will also be broadly disseminated and may encourage greater attention to oral language and literacy in both settings, at policy and practice levels.

Research program aims

  • To document the extent of receptive and expressive oral language disorders in representative samples of adolescents (aged 13-19 years) who are (i) attending an alternative educational setting or (ii) in the state care system.
  • To determine the extent to which adolescents in these settings have reading comprehension skills that are commensurate with their chronological age.
  • To examine links between oral language skills and reading ability.
  • To determine the experiences of the young people with language disorders concerning everyday spoken and written language challenges, particularly in the school context.

Research team members

Professor Pamela Snow

Professor Margarita Frederico

Professor Linda Graham - Queensland University of Technology

Dr Tanya Serry

Ms Emina McLean


Recent Publications

2017 Publications

  • Snow, P.C., Bagley, K. & White, D. (2017). Speech-language pathology intervention in a youth justice setting: Benefits perceived by staff extend beyond communication. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, Accepted February 12, 2017. Released early online March 15. DOI: 10.1080/17549507.2017.1297484.

2016 Publications

  • Snow, P.C. & Woodward, M.N. (2016). Intervening to address communication difficulties in incarcerated youth: A Phase 1 Clinical Trial. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, Released Early Online October 8, 2016. DOI: 10.1080/17549507.2016.1216600.
  • Bishop, D.V.M., Snowling, M.J., Thompson, P.A., Greenhalgh, T. & the CATALISE Consortium (2016). CATALISE: A multinational and multidisciplinary Delphi consensus study. 1. Identifying language impairments in children. PLOS One.  Published July 8, 2016. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158753.
  • Anderson, S.A.S., Hawes, D.J. & Snow, P.C. (2016). Language impairments among youth offenders: A systematic review. Children and Youth Services Review, 65, 195-203. Accepted April 6, 2016; available online 12 April 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.04.004.
  • Brubacher, S., Powell, M.B., Snow, P.C., Skouteris, H. & Manger, B. (2016). Guidelines for teachers to elicit detailed and accurate narrative accounts from children. Children and Youth Services Review, 63, 83-92. DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.02.018.
  • Snow, P.C. (2016). Elizabeth Usher Memorial Lecture: Language is literacy is language. Positioning Speech Language Pathology in education policy, practice, paradigms, and polemics. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 18(3), 216-228. Published early online 9/2/16. DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2015.1112837.