If a young person you work with has one or more communication needs, they are likely to be affected in a number of ways. The stories here are real examples of how communication needs have impacted some young people.

Please click on the relevant section to read their story.

It will be difficult for a young person with communication needs to follow routines and the conditions of their orders.

Kevin was told to attend his local YOT office at a particular date and time, but due to his dyslexia he confused the date and time so turned up at the wrong time on the wrong date, effectively breaching his order.

Young people with communication needs are likely to misunderstand information given to them verbally.

Tania was arrested and questioned by police about an incident. However she could not follow what the police were asking her and she was particularly confused by their complicated vocabulary. She subsequently gave a statement to police that contained many contradictions and appeared unconvincing.

Although the statement was read back to her, she couldn’t process and remember the large amounts of verbal information adequately to identify whether or not it was what she had said. She signed the statement anyway because she wanted to get home quicker. During later discussions with Tania she claimed that the police had “set her up”.

Someone with communication needs may not understand the consequences of not following instructions.

Mark had the terms of his order explained to him by a YOT staff member. Mark had no understanding of his order and the requirements it contained due to the complexity of the language.

Mark has a low level of reading ability and although he was given a written copy of his order he was unable to understand the document. The YOT member did try to put the information into more simple terms but this added to greater confusion and overload. Mark had to sign to say he agreed with the actions that would take place in order to complete his order; he signed the document even though he really didn’t understand it.

Not understanding something may cause a young person to feel anxious and frustrated, which can lead to an angry outburst or to them disengaging.

David’s ability to understand spoken language and express himself is severely impaired for his age. He has difficulty listening, remembering spoken information and using formal language. David breached his ASBO, which stated that he could not travel on a ‘motorised vehicle’. He had ridden an electric scooter and when asked about it he explained that it was not motorised as it was electric.

David appears more able than he is as he can hold a conversation and will attempt to respond even when he hasn’t understood, making it seem as if he is able to join in. He can become quite aggressive and difficult to engage with and it is likely that his communication difficulties are underpinning these behaviours. He finds formal situations such as police interviews and court hearings extremely difficult to understand.

If a young person with communication needs feels stressed, this can bring out their difficulties even more.

Daniel was 15 when he was remanded to custody. Whilst in custody he struggled to follow the routines and regime of the prison. He would press his cell bell when it wasn’t an emergency and would be verbally aggressive to staff. After one incident, Daniel was returned to the wing in a highly distressed state. Four officers were demanding that he return to his room, giving him the same command in several different ways. It was suggested that three of the officers stand back, leaving the remaining officer to say “Daniel. Room, now”. At this simple request he stood up and walked to his room.

Daniel has a language age equivalent of 9 ½ years old. By reducing the language load and the number of people speaking, he was able to understand simple commands. Daniel had good language skills and this masked most of his understanding difficulties.