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Learning disabilities and educational needs of juvenile offenders

Prathiba Chitsabesan (Pennine Care Trust, Manchester, UK)
Sue Bailey (University of Central Lancashire)
Richard Williams (Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care, University of Glamorgan)
Leo Kroll (Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Manchester, UK)
Cassandra Kenning (University Department of Psychiatry, Manchester, UK)
Louise Talbot (Department of Clinical Psychology, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 1 December 2007


This article is based on a study that was commissioned by the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales. We report on the learning profiles and education needs of a cohort of young offenders who were recruited for the study. The research was a national cross‐sectional survey of 301 young offenders who were resident in custodial settings or attending youth offending teams in the community. The young people were assessed using the WASI and the WORD measures to obtain psychometric information (IQ scores and reading/reading comprehension ages). One in five (20%) young people met the ICD‐10 criteria for mental retardation (IQ<70), while problems with reading (52%) and reading comprehension (61%) were common. Verbal IQ scores were found to be significantly lower than performance IQ scores, particularly in male offenders. It is clear from these results that a large proportion of juvenile offenders have a learning disability, as characterised by an IQ<70 and significantly low reading and reading comprehension ages. The underlying aetiology of this association is less clear and may be a consequence of both an increased prevalence of neurocognitive deficits and the impact of poor schooling. There is some evidence that developmental pathways may be different for boys compared with girls.



Chitsabesan, P., Bailey, S., Williams, R., Kroll, L., Kenning, C. and Talbot, L. (2007), "Learning disabilities and educational needs of juvenile offenders", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 4-17.



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