Communicating with young people with learning disabilities

Date: 6th September 2016
Category: Children with disabilities
Author: Children and Young People's Centre for Justice

Young people with learning disabilities are at risk of being disadvantaged in the youth justice and criminal justice systems if they do not have the right support. The CYCJ have provided an information sheet giving useful techniques for communication.

The purpose of this information sheet is to provide basic information in relation to effective communication for anyone working with a young person with a learning disability, who is either in the youth justice system, or is at risk of offending.

Unlike a learning difficulty (which in the UK includes dyslexia and ADHD/ADD), a learning disability is a protected characteristic for the purpose of the Equality Act 2010. A learning disability also has grounds for detention under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. Diagnosis of a learning disability therefore has significant legal implications.

Learning disabilities are largely defined by problems with some or all forms of communication. This can include speaking and listening, understanding spoken and written communication, understanding body language, as well as explaining or expressing thoughts and feelings.

'People with Learning Disabilities and the Criminal Justice System' (Scottish Government, 2011) outlined that to communicate well with young people with a learning disability practitioners need to understand the difficulties that someone with a learning disability may have. They may need to change the way they communicate.