Teenage Crime. Making sense of it

Teenage Crime. Making sense of it

Nathaniel Swain is the WINNER of the University of Melbourne Three Minute Thesis Competition 2016, and RUNNER-UP at the Asia Pacific Competition 2016 out of 50 Universities in the region. 


Teenage criminals. Juvenile delinquents. What comes to mind when you think of the typical young offender? You’re probably imagining a male, between 15 and 18, disadvantaged, possibly maltreated, and more likely to be indigenous. But that’s only part of the story. 

What you might not have heard is that typical young male offenders have severe problems with their communication skills, 50% of these boys have what’s called “language impairment”. This means they can’t understand or express themselves with spoken language, as we would be able to.

So that’s where I come in. As a Speech-Language therapist I help all kinds of people with language impairments and other communication problems.

I was interested in these troubled boys in youth justice. These young men struggle to understand the complex language of police interviews, court appearances, or psychological intervention. The problem is their language impairments are hidden disabilities – masquerading as disinterest, or defiance.