The spoken language and social communication characteristics of adolescents in behavioral schools: A controlled comparison study

Karen James*, Natalie Munro, Leanne Togher, Reinie Cordier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Working with students with emotional behavioral disorders is a challenging area of speech-language pathology practice. In this study, we compare and profile the narrative discourse, structural language, and social communication characteristics of adolescents attending behavioral support and mainstream schools. We also examine relationships between narratives, structural language, social communication, and behavior. Method: Fifty-four students aged between 12 and 16 years participated. Twenty-seven students were from 3 Australian government Schools for Specific Purposes for students with behavioral difficulties, and 27 typically developing students were from a mainstream, government school. Students were matched for age and closely matched for sex and socioeconomic status. All students completed 3 communication assessments: oral narrative, structural language, and social communication skills. Teachers were asked to complete 2 behavioral questionnaires. Results: Students in behavioral schools had significant difficulties generating narratives. Their structural language and overall social communication skills were also significantly poorer than their mainstream peers. One third of the behavioral group experienced significant difficulties across all 3 of these communication areas. Externalizing behavior was significantly related to narrative, structural language, and social communication only when the data were pooled across both groups. Conclusions: Language and social communication difficulties were evident in adolescents who attend alternative school settings—behavioral schools. These findings confirm the need for speech-language pathologists to be engaged in specialist behavioral schools and provide impetus to service providers, speech-language pathologists, and educators to address relationships between behavior and communication ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-127
Number of pages13
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Volume51
Issue number1
Early online date11 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

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