|dc.description.abstract||Adolescent students attending behavioural school settings may have concomitant language and communication difficulties. Yet, there is a paucity of research examining the incidence and nature of communication difficulties in adolescents with severe behavioural problems particularly in the Australian context. More specifically there are no known Australian studies that have examined the language and communication skills of adolescents who attend specialised behavioural school settings. In the state of New South Wales (NSW), these schools are known as schools for specific purposes (SSP) – behaviour.
The Australian context suggests that supporting students with behaviour difficulties is of serious concern. One quarter of adolescent students within the state of Victoria present with severe behavioural disturbance necessitating additional support (Arbuckle & Little 2004). In 2014, The Western Australian Director General reported that thirty-nine per cent of surveyed teachers estimated that they spent at least 20 per cent of their school day on behaviour management. Between 1997 and 2007, there was a 254% increase in the enrolment of students in specialized NSW school settings under the category of ‘behaviour disorder’ (Graham & Sweller, 2011).
This cross sectional group comparison study was designed to investigate the narrative, structural language and social communication characteristics for adolescents attending behavioural school settings and compared to age, sex and socioeconomic status (SES) matched, typically developing peers. In addition, this study reports on the proportion of students from three behavioural schools who presented with clinically significant communication difficulties and the concomitant nature of these difficulties. Relationships between language and behaviour were also explored.
The research questions addressed were as follows:
1a. Are there differences in narrative, structural language and social communication skills for students attending behavioural schools compared with age, sex and socio economically matched peers in mainstream settings?
b. If differences are found in narrative, structural language and social communication skills, are they clinically significant?
2a. Do students who attend behavioural schools in Western Sydney have concomitant narrative, structural language and social communication difficulties?
b. If so, what is the proportion of students in behavioural schools who present with narrative, structural language and social communication difficulties and are they clinically significant?
c. Are there relationships between narratives, structural language and social communication skills in both the behavioural and control group?
3. Is there an association between behaviour and structural language, narratives and social communication difficulties in the behaviour or control group?
27 students aged between 12;00 – 15;11 years, from three Western Sydney schools for specific purposes (SSP) - behavioural schools were recruited and assessed on a battery of language and communication skills. The control group consisted of 27 students (age, sex and SES matched) mainstream government school. The assessment battery included narrative using the Expressive Receptive Recall Narrative Inventory (ERRNI) – Fish Story (Bishop 2004), structural language ability which was examined using the Test of Adolescent Language-4 (TOAL-4; Hammill, Brown, Larsen and Lee, 1980) and social communication skills which was evaluated using the Social Emotional Evaluation (SEE; Wiig 2008). Microstructural and macrostructural evaluation of the Fish Story was investigated using the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT) – New Zealand Versions (SALT –NZ ; Miller, Gillon and Westerveld, 2008). Behavioural skills were assessed via teachers completing the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; Goodman 1999) and Conners-3 (Connors 2008).
Students attending behavioural schools performed significantly poorer than their mainstream peers when assessing narrative, structural language and social communication skills. One exception was the Narrative content measure where there was no significant difference between the two groups despite the behavioural group providing more utterances in their retell. Sixty percent of the behavioural students had clinically significant expressive structural language problems based on the TOAL-4, 56% had clinically significant narrative problems based on the ERRNI total score and 68% had overall clinically significant social communication problems based on the SEE). With respect to concomitance, 32% of behavioural students presented with narrative, structural language and social communication difficulties, 20% presented with only structural language and social communication problems and 12% presented with only narrative and social communication problems. With respect to the association between behaviour (SDQ/Connors) and narrative, structural language and social communication results, no significant associations were found for each group. A post-hoc analysis was performed to investigate whether an association between behaviour, narrative, structural language and social communication skills existed once data was pooled from both groups. Significant negative correlations were found between ERRNI Total and Emotional, Peer relationships, Externalizing behaviours on the SDQ as well as Aggression and Peer relationships on Conners- 3. Significant
negative correlations were also found between SEE Total and Emotional, Peer relationships, Externalizing behaviours on SDQ as well as Aggression and Peer relationships on Conners- 3. TOAL-4 also negatively correlated with Externalizing behaviours from SDQ.
Discussion and Implications
Adolescent students attending behavioural schools face significant language and social communication difficulties. While not causal, some areas of language and communication skills were negatively correlated with measures of behaviour. The results from this study have significant implications for students, parents, educators and speech pathologists. Students and parents will be better informed of reasons why learning may be difficult by taking into account narrative, language and/or social communication difficulties. For many students who attend behavioural schools, language and social communication problems will have gone undetected due to the difficult behaviours masking the real, hidden communication problems. For educators, an increased awareness of the language and communication needs of these students can assist in structuring teaching sessions. It is crucial that teachers understand the importance of how deficits in narrative skills, structural language skills and both the receptive and expressive components involved in social communication, can impact on both learning and on student’s behaviour. The results from this study could also assist other speech pathologists in developing a spoken language assessment protocol for this challenging clinical population.||en_AU|
|dc.publisher||University of Sydney||en_AU|
|dc.publisher||Faculty of Health Sciences||en_AU|
|dc.rights||The author retains copyright of this thesis. It may only be used for the purposes of research and study. It must not be used for any other purposes and may not be transmitted or shared with others without prior permission.||en_AU|
|dc.subject||Emotional Behavioual Disorder (EBD)||en_AU|
|dc.title||The Language and Social Characteristics of Adolescent Students Attending Behavioural Schools: A Controlled Group Comparison||en_AU|
|dc.type.pubtype||Master of Applied Science M.App.Sc.||en_AU|
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