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Prior to the 1970s, there were no major federal laws in place designed to specifically protect the civil and constitutional rights of Americans with disabilities. However, the 1960s civil rights movements' triggered a series of changes focused on the civil and political rights of the populace including that of the disabled. One of the fundamental Acts passed then was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The section 504 of this act banned recipients of federal funds from discriminating against people with disabilities. For the first time, people with disabilities were viewed in the lights of a minority but distinct class who warranted equal treatment on all fronts as opposed to before. Within the contexts of educational domains, the provisions of the section 504 were also important as virtually all public school systems were the recipients of federal funds. Children with disabilities would not be discriminated against on the basis of their disability and were accorded the rights to attend public schools. In addition, they could receive services designed to meet their needs free of charge and learn in regular education alongside normal children in as far as it was practically possible (Mears & Aron, 2003). This law was significantly amended in 1997 with the clear articulation of how a child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) had to be developed and reviewed. In this regard, more emphasis on the traditional planning for youth with disabilities was made. Even more important was how such children could be punished in schools (Mears & Aron, 2003: Burrel & Warboys, 2000).
The overrepresentation of disabled juveniles in incarceration and other lockdown facilities in recent years and reported high cases of recidivism have raised questions as to just how the current criminal justice system is in conformity with the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Researchers have noted that education remains the key to arresting delinquent behaviors among youths, whether disabled or not. Essentially, this was the motivation behind the current study. Based on a detailed review of literature on youths with disabilities, the study reviewed the levels of conformity with the current juvenile justice system.
To a large extent, the implementation of the IDEA amendments can be credited with significant educational advancements for the disabled. There have been widespread access to public education for disabled children, more developed educational infrastructure, earlier identification of disabled children and overall number of children with disabilities who are now accessing education. This can be seen from the fact that over 96% of children with disabilities now attend regular school with non disabled rather than state institutions or separate facilities (Mears & Aron, 2003). In addition, there are more inclusions in regular classrooms, participations in standardized testing, rates of high school graduation and college enrolments, employment rates, number of special education teachers as well as parental involvements (Mears & Aron, 2003). However, it can still be adjudged that significant problems can be discerned in these systems. Perhaps this can be seen from the disjuncture between what IDEA requires and what has actually been attained in majority of schools (Burrel & Warboys, 2000: Mears & Aron, 2003). It is further noted that many schools still do not conduct the Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) as articulated under IDEA or develop positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as required by law for the students that require them (Mears & Aron, 2003). Such failures have been cited as contributing to negative impacts such as greater risks of teen suicides and school dropouts, delinquency avoidance and increased likelihoods of referral to the juvenile justice systems (Mears & Aron, 2003).
An initial review of literature generally indicated that schools must first consider the educational needs of the youths involved in the juvenile justice system if positive outcomes are to be attained. Delinquency and education appear to be intertwined with factors such as; overall levels of academic performance, students' grade retentions, school attendance, and graduation rates (Vacca, 2008). Where students fail to succeed in school environments and where the IEPs are deficient, they might very well look for other areas in which to excel (Winters, 1997 as Cited in Vacca, 2008). Needless to state, most of these have ended up in the criminal justice systems.
Purpose of the Study
The limitation in literature has been the few studies that have focused on communication disorders impacts on the youths. Needless to state, many negative impacts such as poor performances in class, integration in the society, encounters with the criminal justice system and instances of recidivism have been associated with these malaises. The need for proper interventions in addressing the language and communication cannot be overemphasized. The current study focused on language learning disorder and youth incarcerations. The methodology adopted was qualitative in nature that adopted a 'desk-based' research strategy. This involved a mere review of literature on studies conducted on youths with disabilities and the juvenile (as well as criminal) justice system. The study was informed by the observation that adolescents demonstrate personal maladjustments that bear negative impacts on school performance, socialization and seamless transition back into the society. Understanding the complex relationship among language learning disorders, school performance and delinquency among adolescents may present sound learning outcomes for all stakeholders. By highlighting how communication and language-learning deficiencies have impacted on the youths, it was expected that the current study would add to this literature on several fronts.
Review of literature
In order to inform theory on the juvenile justice system and the levels of conformity with IEPs, a brief review of literature was conducted.
The Education for the Disabled Child and the Philosophies Underlying IEP
An important provision under the IDEA Acts was the qualifying criteria for the two-pronged eligibility standard where children are required to have at least one of a list of specific impairments. The impairment or disabilities are; mental retardation, hearing impairment (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbances (SED), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injuries, specific learning disabilities, and finally, multiple disabilities requiring special education and related services (Burrel & Warboys, 2000; Mears & Aron, 2003).
Of the above listed impairments, the most common ones that have been prevalent among juveniles in justice systems have been specific learning disabilities and emotional disturbances (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). Specific learning disabilities will refer to one or more disorders that affect one or more of the basic physiological functioning. These curtails understanding or use of language (either written or spoken) and manifests itself in the abilities to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, compute mathematical calculations among others (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). This may further be accompanied by conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injuries, minimal brain dysfunction and dyslexia and developmental Aphasia, all of which cannot be attributed or arise from environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages (Burrel & Warboys, 2000; Mears & Aron, 2003). In this regard, emotional disturbances have been defined as either condition that exhibit several characteristics: The first will be inability to read that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors. The second is the inability to build up or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationship with peers or teachers. The third characteristic is inappropriate types of behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances. Fourth is the general pervasiveness to moods of unhappiness and depressions. Fifth, a general tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears that is associated with personal or school problems (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). The term also include those juveniles suffering from schizophrenia, although it should then only apply where such malaise has not been as a result of social maladjustment, unless this is accompanied by emotional disturbances (Burrel & Warboys, 2000; Mears & Aron, 2003; Telzrow, 1999).
Learning language disorders is a prevalent condition that affects a multitude of youths today. As noted by Linares-Orama (2005), many speech-language pathologists have been documented as serving delinquent boys with language learning disorders who are either currently or previously serving in incarceration. Similarly, Sanger, Moore-Brown, Montgomery, Rezac and Keller (2003) have indicated that language and communication disorders in children and adolescents can impact on social interactions, behavior, and academic performance. Vacca (2008) has further noted that incarcerated youths attending schools will invariably experience chronic academic as well as behavioral difficulties truancy, grade retention as well as disrupted school ties following the experiences. These have been known to impact on their performance with correlations drawn with recidivism. Such impacts have been associated with youths suffering from communication disorders.
All children who suffer from disabilities as provided for under IDEA are entitled to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). School districts and other special agencies are charged with the responsibility of identifying, locating and evaluating all youths with disabilities for placement into appropriate schools for their education. In addition, the individual states have developed several statutes, regulations, policies and procedures regarding the youths' identifications and referrals. For identification purposes, states are supposed to inform parents and obtain their legal consents, conduct assessments, and employ several interventions for such youths before referrals (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). These usually have to follow clear-cut guidelines and procedures that vary from state to state. Most of the revaluations will however take place in intervals of 3 years or less, although parents and teachers may request that re-evaluations take place sooner. On most occasions, individuals who are disabled will be placed under Individualized Education Programs (IEP).
In the formulation of the special education program, all essential stakeholders must be present. These will include; the child's parents, a regular educational teacher of the child, at least one special educational teacher, a qualified member of the Local Educational Agency (LEA), an individual who can interpret the institutional implications of evaluation results, other individual (s) who posses knowledge of the youth (including service personnel), and the child with the disability (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). Considerations such as the present academic performance, special needs requirements and services required, objectives setting, milestones, and the evaluation criteria, must further be explicitly stated.
Several basic requirements must be met under IDEA. The first requirement regards the statement of the child's educational performance levels. This should cover information such as how the prevailing disabilities have generally curtailed involvement and progresses under the normal curriculum are articulated. The second is a statement of the measurable annual goals to be attained. This will also entail short-term objectives, including those that are required for a pursuit of the general curriculum and the meeting of the child's other educational needs resulting from the disability. The third requirement is a statement of the special education. This may cover the related services and supplementary aids that need to be provided for the child (or on behalf of the child) as well as the modifications or support that must be provided for the school personnel to facilitate the attainment of envisaged goals. Such provisions may include the advance appropriately towards attaining the annual goals, the involvement and progress levels in the general career, and the participations expected with other disabled and non-disabled children in the above spheres. The fourth element that must be captured in the statement should be an explanation of the extent the child may not participate with other non-disabled children in the regular classes and curriculum activities. The fifth is a description of the individual modifications at either state administration or district wide assessments of students' performances so that the child can participate in the assessments being developed. The next should be a statement of the projected timeframes for the inception of the services and modifications including the anticipated frequencies, locations and durations of services and stipulated modifications. The last requirement is a statement of how the child's progress towards the annual goals attainments will be attained and evaluated (Burrel & Warboys, 2000).
In addition to the above stipulated statements for the child's evaluations and measurements of improvements in academic performances, IDEA requires two other requirements be incorporated in the statements of performance, evaluations and measurements. The first is the statement of the transition services needed for the student that should specifically focus on the students courses of study (where the stated children are at least 14 years of age) and which should be updated annually. The second is the statement of the needs transitions in services including appropriate statements of inter-agencies responsibilities or other desirable linkages where the youth is aged more than 16 years (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). Other provisions have been detailed in the Special Education by the Juvenile Justice System by Burrel and Warboys (2000).
The Criminal Justice System and IEPs: The Underlying Philosophies
The behaviors of disabled children who are supposed to be under special educational programs (IEPs) are another important element that has been covered under IDEA. These provisions cover the requirements where a child's behavior is seen to impede learning and where it has been advised that appropriate strategies be adopted directed at impacting positive behavior, including support to address this behavior (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). Criminal activities of the disabled juveniles must be accompanied by copies of the special education requirements and disciplinary records. This however can only be done to the extent that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allow such transmissions (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). On most occasions, it may be deemed necessary that modifications of the previously existing IEP be done. However, it should be understood that the provisions under IDEA do not prohibit the reporting of a crime that has been committed by a disabled juvenile to appropriate authorities nor the exercising of appropriate responsibility within the safeguards of the federal laws and state laws, as regards crimes committed. On some occasions however, it has been reported that this discretion has resulted in youths entering the criminal justice system for relatively minor offenses. Some of the factors that may result in these will include the fact that the disability-related behavior may make it difficult for the youth to understand and comply with the programs demands, failure to show remorse, being disrespectful to the authorities, or even generally negative attitudes displays (Burrel & Warboys, 2000: Mears & Aron, 2003). The wholesome effect has been increased encounters with the juvenile juveniles systems, including extended stays in incarcerations.
For the youths who have been transferred into the adult criminal justice systems, any sentence may be imposed upon them, just like adult criminals. In making decisions on whether the youth should be charged or referred back for special education interventions, the courts will consider factors such as the existence of special learning disabilities, serious emotional disturbances, traumatic brain injuries, developmental disturbances, or other disabilities that would otherwise qualify such a youth for special educational services (Barnum & Keilitz, 1992 as cited in Burrel & Warboys, 2000). The observation however have been that such evaluations do not always take place leading to youths with disabilities ending up in prisons (Mears & Aron, 2003). This has been attributed to the faulty evidence handling, especially proof of insanity, incompetence, intent to commit the offenses and any confessions made (Mears & Aron, 2003; Burrel & Warboys, 2000; Stehjem, 2005; Vlascamp & Van der Putten, 2009).
Disposition of the youths with disabilities is another important service that the juvenile justice system can rehabilitate the youths back into the society. Burrel and Warboys (2000) have voiced that while education may not bear the ultimate success in such ventures, it can at least help ameliorate the hardships that disabled youths face. As noted by these authors, the evidence of special needs should always inform how courts should make out disposition orders. Such orders should ideally reflect the special education evaluations and goals and the objectives and services that need to be provided in the IEPs. Decisions guiding IEPs should take cognizance of deficient disorders and the fact that such youths may act impulsively, fail to anticipate the consequences of their actions, engage in dangerous activities, demonstrate delayed gratifications, listening or following of instructions, among others (Mears & Aron, 2003; Burrel & Warboys, 2000). Logan (1992) has further noted that youths with disabilities may further engage in more self-destruct behaviors such as drugs and alcohol abuse (cited in Burrel & Warboys, 2000). In addition, these youths may experience emotional disturbances resulting in mental health deteriorations and hence the need for psychiatric help.
For the youths in lockdowns and other restricted facilities, facilities must still provide for IEPs as mandated under IDEA. Where misbehavior is school related, youths in lockdowns and other restricted areas may constitute a change of placements. These usually trigger additional disciplinary procedural safeguards that may include reviews of behavioral intervention plans, functional behavior assessments, manifestations determinations, as well as time limits on exclusions (Burrel & Warboys, 2000). Given the practical difficulties in provisions of services in lockdowns and restricted settings, researchers have advised that the length of time spent in such facilities be reduced. Such reductions can be achieved through the reviews of behavioral interventions strategies in the formulations of the initial IEPs.
From the above discussions, it can be seen that the special education system may be seen as imposing significant duties upon the juvenile justice system. However, the identification of behaviors related to youths with disabilities as a framework for the development of practical tenets that can guide such behavior redress in constructive and positive ways cannot be overemphasized. As noted by Burrel and Warboys (2000), ensuring that special educational needs of youths with disabilities are met at every step of the judicial process in delinquency interventions should provide the tenets for behavior redress. Anecdotal evidence illuminates the growing prevalence of youths with disabilities in the criminal justice system that has generally indicated recidivism among offenders with developmental disabilities (Linhorst, MacCutchen & Bennett, 2003).
Results and Discussions
The levels of conformity of the IEPs and the juveniles' justice systems were assessed through a review of empirical studies that focused on youths with disabilities and incarcerations. The major findings on the levels of conformity (or lack thereof) and Language-learning deficiencies, communication and incarceration are presented in this section.
Conformity (or Lack Thereof) with IEP
Studies focusing on youths with disabilities have generally indicated overrepresentation in criminal justice systems with the estimated prevalence rates raging between 30-50% (Rutherford et al, 2005 as cited in Shelley-Tremblay et al, 2007). Shelley-Tremblay et al (2007) has attributed this to the variations in the interpretations and definitions of the assessment criteria for special education and disability within the individual states. In addition, the mental health definition of what should constitute a disability has been found to vary. This has been supported in the works of Maschi, Hatcher, Schwalbe and rosato (2008) who concludes that: beyond the human and social needs services (such as the healthcare, education, social welfares, mental health and substance abuse), extra-legal factors (such as individual characteristics of race/ethnicity, gender and mental health and trauma histories as well as social economic factors of family conflict, unmet services needs, and prior social service use) all impact on the disabled youths and the current IEPs. The poignancy of this has been the understanding that youths in such systems may be suffering from 'known as well as unknown' disabilities meaning that the IEPs and other intervention strategies being sought may actually not be adequately addressing their learning as well as developmental needs. This has been exacerbated by new emerging evidence indicating that juvenile correctional facilities are not always complying with the IDEA requirements (National Council on Disability as cited in Shelley-Tremblay et al, 2007). In addition, it has been pointed out that it's only in few correctional facilities that have the capacity or training to effectively assess or treat the disabled youths in their facilities.
The available evidence would further attest to the need for providing a continuum of community correction sanctions as seen from the observations that these are just as important as the existence of such sanctions in the very first place (Holsinger & Latessa, 1999). This is more so when it is considered that judges maybe faced with only one or two correctional options in addition to incarceration, in the case of the juveniles (Holsinger & Latessa, 1999). The seriousness of this situation is best captured by Leone et al (2005) who attests that while the high quality IEPs have been implemented in most of the correctional facilities, class action litigation in majority of states would point at systematic failures in the provision of appropriate programs and services (as per the IDEA guidelines). In addition, in adequate school records as well as mechanisms that can help identify or serve disabled youths deficiencies have meant that a lot are ending up in correctional facilities.
The mechanisms for seamless transition back into the community are also flaunted with such defects (Shelley-Tremblay et al, 2007). A major observation has been that youths in correctional facilities typically spend more time in confinements where appropriate behavioral as well as academic interventions are limited, including access to special educational services (Shelley-Tremblay, 2007: Hjalmarsson, 2008). In a nutshell, the IEPs are not adhered to as under IDEA, indicating higher delinquencies. The correlations between recidivism has been documented by several other researchers (Shelley-Tremblay, 2007: Hjalmarsson, 2008: Stehjem, 2005: Mears & Aron, 2003: Linhorst et al, 2003: Belenko & Logan, 2003: Vacca, 2008). Putnin (1999) has indicated delinquency to be positively associated with poor educational achievements, particularly poor literacy (cited in Vacca, 2008). Meanwhile, Hjalmarsson (2008) has indicated that when controlling for a large set of observable and un-observable characteristics, arrested and incarcerated individuals were about 11 and 26 points, respectively, less likely to graduate than non arrested individuals. The observations by these authors have gained support from the works of Linhorst et al (2003) who have documented proof indicating that over 40% of youths participating in a case management program were arrested while participating in the program, with 34% arrested 6 months after the closure of the case.
On the other hand, Belenko and Logan (2003) have indicated that the lack of science based juvenile drug court models and empirically sound juvenile drug courts evaluations have severally limited the effectiveness of the juvenile drug courts. In these authors' opinions, there is need of a model designed to create new juvenile drug courts systems that would maximize the effectiveness of local resources. In addition, research-based interventions on the youths and families facing substances abuse and delinquency needs to be incorporated. Such ventures would help reduce rates of recidivism (Belenko & Logan, 2003).
When the above literature is dissected in details, it can be seen that substantial evidence linking reading disabilities and casualties with juvenile delinquency abides. Anecdotal literature would further posit that the incidences of recidivism are inherently higher for disabled youths relative to their non-disabled counterparts. As noted by Foley (2001), juvenile offenders with disabilities appear to encounter more difficulties in transitions from incarcerations to mainstream societies (Cited in Vacca, 2008). When it's noted that youths currently incarcerated are as high as 12-70% of the entire juvenile population in such facilities (walford, 2000), the concerns ultimately would rise. The importance for better structured interventions especially for the case of disabled youths cannot therefore be overemphasized. The proper identification and treatment of disabled youths may not only help reduce recidivism but also violence and criminal activities as well as mental and physical health of the disabled. This would also facilitate better re-integration back to the society.
It has been advised that the predictors of treatment and treatment utilization for disabled youths entering the juvenile justice system focus on the social environment and personal characteristics as well as well as socio-demographic characteristics. This should help underscore the continual development of the cultural competence of treatment providers as well as the expansions of the onsite provisions of substance abuse treatment services to the incarcerated juveniles (Johnson, Cho, Fendrich, Kelly-Wilson & Pickup, 2004). The need for this has been the growing realizations of the pressing social problems of juvenile delinquency and the negative emotional, physical and economic effects that this bears on the society (Tarolla, Wagner, Rabinowitz & Tubman, 2002). When the wholesome effects of prevalence, stability, and the accompanying detrimental impacts of juvenile offending are put into perspectives and dissected in details, the poignancy of it all will attest to the overarching need for redress.
Language-learning deficiencies, communication and incarceration
Learning language disorders is a prevalent condition that affects a multitude of youths today. As noted by Linares-Orama (2005), many speech-language pathologists have been documented as serving delinquent boys with language learning disorders who are either currently or previously serving in incarceration. Similarly, Sanger, Moore-Brown, Montgomery, Rezac and Keller (2003) have indicated that language and communication disorders in children and adolescents can impact on social interactions, behavior and academic performance. Vacca (2008) has further noted incarcerated youths attending schools will invariably experience chronic academic as well as behavioral difficulties truancy, grade retention as wells disrupted school ties following the experiences. These have been known to impact on their performance with correlations drawn with recidivism. Such impacts have been associated with youths suffering from communication disorders. The limitation in literature has however been the few studies that have especially focused attention on how communication disorders impacts negatively on the youths with associated poor performances in class, integration in the society, encounters with the criminal justice system and instances of recidivism.
Linares-Orama (2005) has documented the results of a study that was meant at analyzing the learning language and disorders and youths incarcerations. The purpose was to determine the complex relationship between language-learning disorders in trying to decipher correlations between individual associations with the levels of poverty, poor school performances and delinquency in boys. This author notes that for effective correctional time utilization in the correctional facilities, there is need for speech pathologists, teachers and other institutional personal to intervene. This would help confined boys with language-learning disabilities to realize benefits from the IEPs.
Sanger et al (2003) on the other hand were interested in examining the language problems, communications behaviors and learning among females' incarcerated adolescents. The study was based on a qualitative methodology that employed the use of interviews on a sample of 13 female adolescents aged between 13-17 years who exhibited language problems. The authors assessed how these teenagers communicated with friends, parents and authority, views about themselves and a description of their learning in schools. The emerging themes were that the participants struggled with listening, speaking as well as reading. Based on these findings, the authors questioned whether the current educational system was adequately prepared to cater for the language and disorder impacts facing that kind of a population.
The above literature would generally indicate that schools must first consider the educational needs of the youths involved in the juvenile justice system if positive outcomes are to be attained. As has been reported under several other studies, delinquency and education appears to be intertwined with factors such as overall levels of academic performance, students' grade retentions, school attendance, and graduation rates (Vacca, 2008). This appears to be the case with disabled youths as well. The redress of these needs certainly bears poignancy when the negative impacts are dissected in details. As noted by Winters (1997) where students fail to succeed in school environments and where the IEPs are deficient, they might very well look for other areas in which to excel (Cited in Vacca, 2008). Needless to state, most of these have ended up in the criminal justice systems.
The overrepresentation of disabled juveniles in incarceration and other lockdown facilities in recent years and reported high cases of recidivism have raised questions as to just how the current criminal justice system is in conformity with the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Essentially, this constituted the motivations for conducting a study on the levels of conformity between the juveniles' justice systems and the IEPs. Based on a 'desk-based' research strategy that was grounded on a review of literature on youths with disabilities and the juvenile justice system, the levels of conformity were evaluated. Empirical studies reviewed have generally indicated overrepresentation in criminal justice systems with the estimated prevalence rates higher than that of the normal youths, in the case of youths with disabilities. It has also been revealed that there are deficient transition mechanisms back into the society for such youths leading to higher rates of recidivism.
The findings further attested to failures in addressing the educational needs of disabled youths. The effects of these have been variations in the intervention programs being deployed with particular concerns being advanced as regarding reading disabilities. While reading achievement will basically be measured against reading comprehension (speed and accuracy of measures) there are no standard forms of assessments used to explicitly define whether significant discrepancies between reading achievement and ability exists for the disabled youths with learning disabilities. This becomes more poignant where recent research findings have indicated that attention disorders (such as Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder) have been found to be significantly higher among delinquent youths. This calls for the need for the correct identification and treatment of such disorders. Needless to state, this has not been incorporated in current IEPs programs on most occasions.
Improving reading disabilities among disabled youths is thus anchored on frameworks of improving the youths educational performances as well as preventing developments of life-long antisocial behaviors that may result in future infringements with the law. Critical issues such as guardianship involvements, restrictive practices and retrieval, therapy provision, and risk management issues will all have significant effects on the levels of educational, clinical as well as lifestyle outcomes for youths with disabilities under incarceration. The question then would be, just how can this be ameliorated? Researchers have been in agreement that education remains the key to arresting delinquent behaviors among youths, whether they have disabilities or not.