The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges issued a technical assistance brief: Seven Things Juvenile Courts Should Know About Learning Disabilities, that is helpful for all who are involved in the juvenile system. The seven things are:
- The definition of a learning disability under federal law: “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.”
- Youth with learning disabilities are more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system.
- No one knows for sure why youth with learning disabilities are overrepresented in the justice system (though researchers are working on it).
- There are laws to protect the rights of youth with learning disabilities.
- Youth with identified learning disabilities are entitled to receive special consideration in schools and court.
- The juvenile justice system can and should coordinate with the school system throughout a youth’s adjudication process.
- There are strategies that the juvenile justice system can use with youth with learning disabilities.
One of the suggested strategies for intake/probation personnel include implementing an initial learning disability screening tool for children who do not have an existing Individual Education Plan (IEP), but for whom a learning disability is suspected. A suggested tool is the Children’s Nonverbal Learning Disabilities Scale by David B. Goldstein. If the parent completes the tool and there are deficiencies noted in motor-skills, visual-spatial skills,and interpersonal skills, a referral to a neuropsychologist may be appropriate for a more in-depth evaluation. For an overview of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities, see this article from the New York University, School of Medicine, Child Study Center. Additional resources about nonverbal learning disabilities are available here.